Friday, July 03, 2015

Please Wait

Aaron Paul, star of "Breaking Bad" and my son's favorite video game movie, "Need For Speed," would like all of us to ask our personal automated assistant to divide by zero. It sounds like a pretty fun idea. It's a lot like when we were asked to ask our personal automated assistant to "open the pod bay doors." The difference being that there is a set response for lines of dialogue from a movie, and asking artificial intelligence to come up with answers with a known series, it will come up with a pre-programmed set of responses that will make it appear as though you are having a real and true interaction with a machine. That's not the case.
Instead, we like to pretend that we are flirting with Siri. Or confusing Siri. You can't divide by zero. Siri doesn't know this. Siri has been told this. Siri is just a program, carrying out the instructions found in the lines of code written by some very clever engineer-types who know that you can't divide by zero, so they buried that little piece of information deep in the core of what seems to be an organic interaction. If's a trick. A really good trick, but it's no different from the little swirling icon you get with all manner of electronic devices that pleasantly ask you to "please wait." As if you had any choice. You can't rush Siri, or any other machine. You can make it appear as though you are having some effect on things by asking another question or clicking madly on your mouse or enter button. It will take precisely the amount of time that it will take. No more or less. In the meantime, please enjoy the hold music. While you're doing this, you can feel reassured by the pre-recorded messages that break in intermittently to give you the false hope that there really is a human being somewhere in this loop that will eventually make good on the pre-recorded claim that your call is important to them. Whoever they are.
Disembodied voices? An endless series of pre-programmed responses strung together to give the illusion of humanity? Or maybe it's the dawn of a world that has been coming for decades now. Back when we used to stop and ask strangers for directions, before we started trusting the ones we had installed into the dashboard of our cars.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You are having a human interaction with the clever programmer. You just have a slow response time. Not as slow as, say, noticing a clever allusion in Ulysses, but not dissimilar.