Passenger Type

The screen pulses in front of me, requesting, nay, demanding a response before I can complete our online check-in.

Please confirm passenger type.

I wonder uneasily how honest I have to be: what level of personal disclosure is necessary about my passenger type.

Flippant      Impatient      Easily Irritated

I wonder if the truth will make anything better: I’ve pretty much given up on it setting me free from what ails me, especially in the air.

Legs Too Long for Economy       Makes Frequent Bathroom Trips
Can’t Hear Most Movie Soundtracks

I wonder if they’re looking to improve some aspect of their service — airplane maintenance, foodlike-substances service, or safety briefings, perhaps — and are wondering, in turn, where to start.  You know, like market research.  OK, I’m in!  How many can I select?

Made Uneasy by Strange Mechanical Noises       Hates Brand of Hummous Sold Onboard
Already Knows How Seatbelts Work

I wonder if they’re trying to optimize seating compatibility.  I can help with that, too.

Don’t Need Seatmate’s Life History         Could Do Without Children Kicking Me in the Back
Not Now Sick and Don’t Much Want to Be When I Get Off the Plane, Thanks

I wonder if they’re trying to balance the plane’s load, by weight or possible allergens.  I have useful information here, too.

Carries Computer and Camera Onboard          Checks Actual, You Know, Full-Size Suitcases
Doesn’t Travel with Animals

But then I look at the pulsing screen a little closer.  Oh.  That kind of type: just gender and age, without too many options for either.  I check the applicable boxes and carry on.

Screenshot of check-in screen

But as the screen shifts to the next fun-filled step in this process, I wonder why I had to do that.  Don’t they already have this information?  Yes, yes they do.

Please confirm passenger type.

And I consider the possibilities not yet covered.

Reads Too Much Into Questions        Expects Systems to be Logical
A Little Insecure

Now these, perhaps, are more broadly helpful types for them to know about — for anyone to know about — than Adult Female, which doesn’t usefully distinguish me from about a quarter of the world’s population.  But hey, they didn’t ask.  Did they?


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  1. Jim Taylor

    There was something or other called the Turing Test, named for an Artificial Intelligence guru named, I think, Dick Turing, who decreed that if you could carry on a conversation with something and not be sure whether you were talking to a machine or a real human, then in fact it no longer mattered whether you were talking to a machine or a real human. Or something like that, anyway. Clearly, your conversational partner failed the Turing Test.
    Jim T

    1. Isabel Gibson

      Jim T – Something (and someone :-)) like that, indeed. Alan Turing was the computer/AI guy, and I think his test was to have an evaluator converse via keyboard with people and a machine. If the evaluator couldn’t reliably determine which was which (human or machine) then the machine would be said to have passed the test and to have exhibited intelligent behaviour. And you’re right, some days it seems like some people wouldn’t pass.

  2. Tom Watson

    Isabel and Jim
    Speaking of the Turing test, and not being sure what’s real and what’s not…have either of you read Bellevue Square by Michael Redhill? It won the Giller Prize this year. All the way through it was hard to discern what was real and what wasn’t. Good writing, I suppose, but not very satisfying.

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