AI, or Artificial Intelligence, is the study of intelligent machines: an important field of computer sciences. But what should be the term for the opposite study? As tempting as it may be, Natural Stupidity is not the right term; Mechanical Humanity (MH) describes it much better.
MH is the very first thing you need to learn, before dealing with the hoards of officials who will accompany you throughout the entire process of moving to the US.
Each official seems to be familiar with some rigid actions that cannot be changed under any circumstances. And just like double jeopardy, once a step is finished it can’t be changed, regardless of the mistakes made. The holy process must move on.
For me, it all started when I first applied for The Visa Interview. If you are not familiar with the process, it goes like this. First you pay lots of money, then you fill in lots of form, then you bring all kind of evidence to prove who you are, and pay again more money. Then you fill in some more forms to become qualified for an hour telephone interview at $5 a minute to verify that you have spelled your name correctly and that you are really who you think you are. At the end of the $300 call you are allocated a slot to come for a face to face interview:
Official: “Sir, your interview will take place on Wednesday in 3 months time (he gave an actual date), anytime between 8:30am and 1pm.”
Me: “But Wednesday mornings are not good for me (weekly management meeting), can we do it in the afternoon, or any other day?”
Official: “Sir, this is the time allocated to you.”
Me: “But it’s three months ahead, surely you can find another day.”
Official: “Sir, you don’t understand. This is the time allocated to you. You can choose not to take this slot, but then your application will be terminated. This is your choice, Sir.”
So, as you might have guessed, given the choice, I decided to take the interview, and three month later I found myself standing in a two-hour queue, only to face an official who handed back to me, unprocessed my very own forms and sent me to pay at the cashier. I returned with the forms and the receipt to a second official, who interviewed me for an entire two minutes and sent me back to the cashier for another payment. I came back to him, this time with the forms, second payment slip and my passport, which he would sign and send back to me, but not before I queued and paid the courier company to deliver to my home the sign passports and the paperwork I was holding.
And yet, despite the attention to details (or maybe because of them), they made a couple of mistakes in my application. My passport and the documents attached disagreed on the dates of my visa, which would have made me illegal the day after I entered the US. So I called again, and after 20 minutes at $5 a minutes it became clear that this was what the consular had decided, and that there was nothing to discuss, and no way to find the reason, or to appeal.
It was a few weeks and many thousands of dollars paid to lawyers that resolved this seemingly simple mistake.
More than any other first-world system, the US seems to favors bureaucracy running by not-allowed-to-thinkers who only follow the process. I can guess why the system was built this way, but I am sure that in a world where machines become more and more intelligent, mechanical humans are obsolete and should be replaced by machines. The faster it happens in the US, the slower the shift of power from the US to the rest of the world will be.