No Laptop For You: A Case Of Machine Learning Failure

Ginger Grant walks us through a scenario where Lenovo refused to sell her a laptop four times:

Buying a laptop from Lenovo reminded me of an episode of Seinfeld when Elaine was trying to buy soup.  For some unknown reason, when I placed an order on their website and gave them my money, Lenovo gave me a Cancellation Notice, the email equivalent of “No Soup for you!”  After placing an order, about 15 minutes later, I received a cancellation notice.  I called customer service.  They looked at the order and advised me the systemincorrectly cancelled the order.  I was told to place the order again as they had resolved the problem.  I created a new order, and just like the last time, I received the No Laptop for You cancellation email.  I called back. This time I was told that the system thinks I am a fraud. Now I have no laptop and I have been insulted.

In all the talk of ML running the future, one thing that gets forgotten is that models, being simplifications of reality, necessarily make mistakes.  Failing to have some sort of manual override means, in this case, throwing away money for no good reason.

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