image I was listening to the radio on the way to work this morning and there was a segment with Sir Robert Winston talking about using robots in medicine.

His basic premise was don’t use them, they are expensive and can never respond like a human doctor could to any given situation. It reminded me of something CJ said in that west wing episode where they all get stuck in the kitchen only to find that there are no apples or peanut butter. It was about how spy satellites and wire taps were all very good but if you want to catch terrorists you have to have real human spies.

Two reasonably disparate examples I know, but there is a common thread. There are some things that are essentially human. Processes which machines and algorithms and, dare i say it, search engines simply cannot replicate.

I remember a debate I had with Simon Collister a couple of years ago about how you could actually use tagging, and one thing we both agreed on was that sites like delicious could eventually become human powered search engines to rival the crawling spider bots of google and its brethren.

It’s a strange twist of fate that, all tied up in this essential humanness, lies both social media’s greatest strength and its biggest weakness. The ability to engage in real conversations with present and potential customers is priceless. But that’s the problem, its price-less, we can’t put a number on it and we can’t measure the inherent value in a conversation.

Moreover, because in needs to be human, it can’t be turned into a system, it can’t be managed and it doesn’t fit into matrices or spreadsheets.

What really strikes me about the companies that refuse to accept this, is that the closer their assimilation of human behaviour gets to being real, the more artificial it looks, and the less effective.

My point is this; to all the people who email me with transparently computer generated messages starting with “Hi Sam…” Stop it. Stop trying to look human and just talk to me.