Fila, Gmail, Lenskart, Headphone Zone, Vistara and the waiter at Radisson Blu Plaza, Delhi

I searched for Fila sneakers last month. My search seemed private to me, because I searched for it in my browser, on my own, with no one around me. But thanks to the cookies I left online during the search, Fila shoes, from many online vendors, started chasing me in the form of text ads and web banners.

I wrote a lot of mails on my free Gmail account. Many of them had a question meant for the recipient. My mails seemed private to, since I emailed using my own email account, all by myself. But Gmail’s smart techniques in the background understood the context of some of the mails – like a question, and the fact that the other person has not responded to me for that question in a period of time. So Gmail prompted me by showing my emails again, asking me if I wanted to follow up on those emails.

I order my contact lens annually through Lenskart. Each year, as my supply gets lesser, Lenskart usually reminds me via email that I need to order a new annual supply again.

I bought a pair of Sony Bluetooth headphones on Headphone Zone. Since then, as if we order headphones many times during a year, they have been sending me emails (all of them worth looking at, I admit) as follow-ups.

I bought flight tickets on Vistara through their website. Both Google and Vistara promptly took it upon themselves to remind me that I had a flight to catch, a day before the travel, on email and text message.

I stayed at the Radisson Blu Plaza near Delhi Airport last week. More than ‘stayed’, it should be ‘lived’ since I was there for 5 nights and 6 days, for a series of workshops on employee advocacy for a client. On the morning of the second day, during breakfast, one of the waiters at the restaurant came to me and asked, ‘Masala omelette and black coffee again, Sir?’.

On all the other 5 occasions above, I’m not surprised at all because those reminders are by machines and algorithms. Some of them annoyed me, some seemed creepy and some of them were helpful to me. This one, at the restaurant, by this man, was my favorite because it was by a human. He actually managed—or bothered—to remember my face and my preference among the many hundreds who eat at that place everyday, and managed to surprise me pleasantly.

The other point is that, as a human, his memory and mental capacity to store information is limited, compared to machines. But, amongst the people and preference combinations that he managed to remember, I seemed to be one!

This human touch is truly wonderful! It’s not scalable, cannot be done predictably, but its that limited, unpredictable nature of the act that makes it all the more special.

Machines and algorithms making us feel unique by remembering us, our tastes and preferences and reminding us things are going to be future, no doubt about that at all. There’s no surprise in them already, since we have become immune to their prompts, fully realizing that they are mere robots programmed to do this.

But, occasional human acts of using our species’ frail memory to remember people will continue to completely blow our minds, whenever they happen.