Newsletter Steven Ferry

The Modern Butlers Journal, March 2018, Butlers In the Media

Steven Ferry

Butlers in the Media

by Steven Ferry

Mr. Burrell continues to broadcast himself and his former employer’s private life and communications, claiming, “No-one will ever know what we had, no-one will ever know. It was so private.” Really? Maybe it should have stayed that way?

Here’s a new use of butler in society: a “Limerick Butler,” available in the Conrad in Dublin to personalize a limerick for guests. For anyone unfamiliar with limericks, they are short, Irish poems. And another application, this time by Maserati, of an old theme: the butler as pocket-sized external holder of keys, wallet, and smartphone that can be attached to the“employer’s” belt. And yet another: “IT Butler” for a company that provides e-services and, as with all these other “Something Butlers,” to misquote Shakespeare’s Macbeth, is “…full of marketing and PR, signifying nothing.”

A butler in England was jailed for racking up 14 speeding tickets before the police finally nailed him: he had created a fake identity and address so that he could avoid losing his job for speeds registered as high as 84 mph in a 50 zone.

Did he really think that the police would not notice that the same car, registered in his name, could be driven by the same invented person all over England—who kept on not paying his fines—and not follow up? That they would not notice his fingerprints on the documents returned to them with information that did not add up? Apparently, according to his lawyer, “His work as a butler required his presence in different parts of the country. He had limited time to get there and drove faster than he should.” This same individual was also on parole/on license from prison for firing a gun in the street.

What does this boil down to? Reckless endangerment, for one; an inability to think in sequence/appreciate consequences, and to take action with his employer to remedy his duties so he was not continually in violation of the law; and more-basic-a-failure than not following the law: a lack of a personal moral code. We recommend The Way to Happiness as a basic moral code based on common sense for anyone who is struggling in life.

Robot & Butlers Again

There now exists a virtual house designed to train robot butlers—the future of butler academies, no doubt, in the minds of the robot crowd—training the robots to “slice apples, make beds, and carry drinks in a low-stakes environment [meaning a virtual one, not the real world]… because they’re still clumsy and make tons of mistakes.”

And while on the subject of robots, an article (which pleasantly did not resort to the cliché of “robot butler”) was published, entitled Hoteliers fear robot-run future yet believe AI is key to guest personalization. Isn’t that ever a contradiction in terms? Or is it? Hoteliers decided that “Although robots could never replace genuine hospitality, they can decipher big data to learn about guests faster than humans.” Maybe. That is, after all, why we use guest preference databases. But if artificial intelligence is meant to analyze information and present correct conclusions, then how does one explain the constant failures of security forces around the world with their billions invested in information-gathering and -analysis, in finding actual perpetrators without incorrectly targeting innocents?

“Hoteliers suggested AI could best enhance the guest experience through tailored pricing during the booking process, voice and face recognition upon arrival, and 24/7 customer service during the guests’ stay.”

There is certainly room for technology to enhance service offered—a computerized guest database that can be shared in real time between properties (private estates or hotel chains) will always be more valuable than a hard-copy book. Maybe it would work better if guests were recognized facially and by voice tones and so identified and greeted by name, so they do not have to give it themselves. But at what price to our privacy and ultimately, personal freedoms, does that little convenience come? As for “tailored pricing” during the booking process…it reminds me of the practice by the travel portal, Orbitz, and maybe others, of identifying those users on a Mac, rather than a PC, and increasing the prices quoted for their air travel based on the fact that Mac users tended to be more affluent.

One last foray into the world of robots and AI: According to two Microsoft whizzes, “humans will have robot doubles sporting digital copies of their consciousness in the next twenty years.” However much one might (incorrectly) accuse the editor of being anti-technology (he is not, having written plenty of material for multiple high-technology companies), the notion is a non-starter because the concept of “consciousness” is one that is patently beyond the consciousness of materialists: The idea of anything spiritual is anathema to those who conceive all of life to be composed solely of quantifiable things.

It is possible, of course, to enter data, a long list of information about a person, into a computer and instill it into a robot. One could even program the robot to express an emotion—but not to feel one. If one knew the first thing about emotions, about the spirit, about the mind, and the complexities of life, one would see straight away that robots can mimic, but they can never be. And consciousness comes from being—as in a spiritual being. Sorry, but one cannot write a spiritual being into existence in the real world.

The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and superior service expertise of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, updated with modern people skills, and adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resorts, spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts & cruise ships around the world.”