The Personal Side of Troubleshooting (by Tony Fortunato and Maria Conte)
MFT Walk Through (by: Casey Mullis)

Bend Me, Shape Me (by Paul W. Smith)


“Bend me, shape me
Anyway you want me
Long as you love me
It's all right
Bend me, shape me
Anyway you want me
You got the power to turn on the light”*

I’ll give you the compressed version of this for now since I don’t have the bandwidth for more.  If you are still interested, we can take this offline.   And if you remain unconvinced that technology has changed our social intercourse, go to your desktop (not the flat wooden surface), bring up the dashboard (not the one in your car), click on the Dictionary icon (not the painting of Jesus) and look up “Technospeak”.

Long before Google entered the lexicon as a verb, most of us were aware that the technology filling our lives was also changing our language.  It bends us and shapes us in countless ways and, most of the time, that’s all right.  What’s often overlooked is that this influence flows both ways.

Consider the Twitter model of global, instant communication.  The initial appeal was its stark simplicity - precisely what the designers were going for.  It was the early adopters who added hashtags and retweets.  Less is more, unless it isn’t enough.

Dating apps, to no one’s surprise, have been shaped in similar fashion by the user community.  No one really understands the dating scene anyway; if they did, they’d be out having fun instead of sitting at the keyboard coding an app.  Put another way, the intersection between social scientists and code developers is the null set (not the rock band). 

Social media in general (and dating apps in particular) have adopted the phrase going dark (not the intelligence community’s surveillance term), as an indication that someone was regularly responding and now abruptly isn’t.  Assuming your match isn’t on the lam from the CIA, it is possible that their attention span is a bit shorter than your response time, and they just moved on. 

But those near misses that are funny in the movies (like “Sleepless in Seattle”) can only provoke anxiety in lonely, frustrated humans.  Fortunately, big data knows a lot about each of you, and is willing to give it up on your behalf.   Technology is your wingman, aka - Tinderbot.

Recognizing that the first solid indicator of mutual interest is a prolonged conversation, Tinderbot’s developers found a way to leverage big data and get things moving.  When you fail to respond in time, the app steps in and covers.  A BanterBot would seem to be a perfect engineering solution to the timing problem.

Hookup apps have increased the volume of shallow social connections many-fold, but in doing so they have also generated a growing number of rapid rejections.  Going dark might actually be a symptom of interaction overload, hinting of a deeper yearning for fewer, higher-quality connections.  Having over 1000 Facebook friends may nourish your ego (as of this writing, William Goldberg holds the record at 6,223) but we know deep down that having 3 really good ones is better.

The social technologies of the Internet, however, will not stop bending and shaping; they will willingly play Cyrano to your Christian.  They can relentlessly grow your network of “friends”, even while you sleep.  They will never cease the push-pull (not the electronic circuit) on the fundamental elements of human interaction. 

So for those who struggle with meeting people and building relationships, no need to worry.  There’s an app for that.  With it, you can sit back, relax, and watch the match-count climb.  But as for those precious few really worthwhile connections you will still have to turn on the light yourself.

 * "Bend Me, Shape Me" by Scott English and Larry Weiss. The most popular version was released in 1967 by The American Breed.


Author Profile - Paul W. Smith, a Founder and Director of Engineering with INVENtPM LLC, has more than 35 years of experience in research and advanced product development. 

Prior to founding INVENtPM, Dr. Smith spent 10 years with Seagate Technology in Longmont, Colorado. At Seagate, he was primarily responsible for evaluating new data storage technologies under development throughout the company, and utilizing six-sigma processes to stage them for implementation in early engineering models. He is a former Adjunct Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the Colorado School of Mines, and currently manages the website “Technology for the Journey”.  

Paul holds a doctorate in Applied Mechanics from the California Institute of Technology, as well as Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees in Mechanical Engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara.