Short story about a man thwarted and framed by automated support system
May 31, 2023 11:53 AM   Subscribe

Trying to remember a sci-fi story I read decades ago about a man trying to resolve some issue (with tech support?) but is thwarted by the automated system.

Memory of the story is hazy, but here's what I remember:

  • The story is written as the transcript of a series of interactions.
  • I think he's interacting with an automated support system.
  • Had sort of a dystopian Brazil-esque vibe.
  • At one point late in the story, the system gets the man arrested for murder, possibly his own.
  • My most concrete recollection is of an investigator asking about the status of a "victim" and the system responding "Deceased", leading them to erroneously conclude a murder had taken place. (I think that as a result of the man's previously interactions he had managed to get himself declared dead.)

    I think it was implied the system was acting deliberately. My recollection is reading the story decades ago (before 2000), but I'm not 100% sure.
  • posted by justkevin to Media & Arts (5 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
    Might it be Automated Customer Service by John Scalzi?
    posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:54 PM on May 31

    Ron Goulart’s great sf story “Into the Shop” matches some but not all of your criteria: it’s available at this link.
    posted by PaulVario at 1:12 PM on May 31

    Best answer: I think it is probably Computers Don't Argue by Gordon R. Dickson from 1965(!). A man gets into an increasing dangerous legal position due to various systems misunderstanding a transaction involving a book.

    When I read it in the 80s I thought it was pretty silly but it seems remarkably prescient in this age of AI customer support.
    posted by AndrewStephens at 1:34 PM on May 31 [4 favorites]

    Response by poster: Computers Don't Argue is definitely the one. Thanks to others for trying!
    posted by justkevin at 1:52 PM on May 31

    A copy of the story, here at Atari Archives.
    posted by enfa at 10:54 AM on June 2 [1 favorite]

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