Wrestling With Technology

This has been quite a week for dealing with technology.  It started with submitting a revised journal article using a web-based publishing platform.  It was unhappy because the zip code for one of my coauthors was missing.  It wanted me to add this information but I did not know the user name and password for this person.  The managing editor of the journal and I tricked the system into accepting the change after two hours of trying different workarounds.

I am teaching my graduate course online this semester.  I have to learn various software systems to do this.  One application is too big for my Mac Air.  I had to reconfigure my Mac substantially to create space for these applications.  I invested perhaps four hours to accomplish these changes.  It was rather frustrating trying to figure out what was wrong.  There can come a point when you just feel helpless.

I moved to Washington, DC last January.  I wanted to move my primary care affiliation to Washington from New Jersey.  I had informed my Medicare Advantage provider of my move, but nothing happened.  Trying to be proactive, I approached primary care practices, inquiring whether my existing plan would be accepted.  I discovered that no one would accept this plan.  With a bit of online searching, I learned that my plan was not available in Washington, DC.

My online interactions were priceless.  First, I needed to deal with the agent not realizing that the District of Columbia is not a state.  She emphatically wanted me to be in Maryland or Virginia.   Once I convinced her of where I lived, she simply told me that my policy would be cancelled, effective with the end of the month.  She noted simply, “We do not cover people in Washington, DC.”  They could have told me that when I told them I had moved months ago.

So, I had to change insurers.  I had a choice of three and chose the highest rated offering with the nearest “in network” providers.  An hour or so online enabled completing the application, involving lots of standardized questions where the answers could include no caveats.  For example, my move to DC did not qualify as a “recent” move.  I had to pick from a standard list of reasons why I delayed changing my insurance – which I didn’t but that was not an option.

Then my TV failed.  It would not come on.  I tried all the troubleshooting procedures I found online.  I checked my receipt.  The warranty had expired four days earlier.  I tried to contact Sony but all phone numbers led to suggested websites, most of which I had visited earlier for troubleshooting advice.  Finally, I found a number that led to a human answering – in the Philippines.

He was very helpful in guiding me through the troubleshooting procedures I had already executed.  The result was a diagnosis of a hardware failure.  He agreed that Sony would honor the warranty since the TV was not delivered until a date less than one year from my call.  A service call has been scheduled, at no cost to me.  Whew!

This was a lot of wrestling with technology.  I devoted more than eight hours to all these interactions.  I wonder what non-technically inclined folks do in such situations.  I worry that someday circumstances will arise where a PhD from MIT is not enough.  Perhaps AI will save the day, unless of course it is the AI that fails.

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