People have individual identities and stories. There’s a lot that goes into the decisions they make and the circumstances they are in, only some of which has to do with choices they’ve made.
It takes time and mental energy to get to know them. There’s a limit to how many people an individual can really know.
When dealing with a high volume of people, such as the volume around which bureaucracies are built, efficiency is necessary. A bureaucrat does not have time to get to know each of the people with whom they are dealing because getting to know people slows the process down, whatever the process is.
Rules introduce efficiency into a system by providing guides for how to arrive at an outcome (a decision, for instance) based on some inputs (maybe a form that someone fills out).
Rules tend to be established around likely or common occurrences (and usually with particular populations in mind). However, memorable occurrences (such as instances of cheating) can easily be mistaken for likely occurrences, so rules tend to also be formed around bad actors, no matter how rare.
Humans are seen as a weakness within bureaucratic systems because we have a natural inclination towards compassion and care for fellow humans. A popular method for addressing those weaknesses is to introduce technologies into the system to facilitate the decision-making process. The human agent then becomes simply a verifier for decisions made by the algorithms (we have a known bias towards accepting decisions made by AI). All in the name of efficiency, which does not have very much room for compassion.
By putting people in positions where they function much like machines, bureaucracies push people into behaving like the machines they rely on to complete their work tasks. At that point, what function does the human in the system actually serve?
This rules-based machination of processes (generally processes that have consequences for the humans who are being processed through the bureaucracy) might seem like a reasonable approach to dealing with volume, but looking at it that way ignores the very real consequences that these processes have for people. Hackers and those who study the rules in order to take advantage of them are always going to find a way to beat the system, so structuring rules around bad actors can only really serve to punish ordinary people.
Is this what we want for our future? For humans to become more and more like the technologies that we create?
I believe it is time to reassert our humanity and fight back against robotization by bureaucracy! It shouldn’t be just one or a handful of individuals in a company who consider the ‘users’ or people on the other end of the technology – ethics, inclusivity, and humanity should be at the core of everything we do.