Monday, August 08, 2016

Artificial Intelligence

I don't mind artificial intelligence as long as it appears to be what it is: artificial. When it gets creepy, like that Hayley Joel Osment. You look like a kid, and a lot of what comes out of you sounds like a kid, but then there is a moment when there is new input. That input does not correspond to the pre-programmed responses and you get something like a robot chugging a glass of water with disastrous results. Circuits fried. System reset. Time to buy a new robot. Unless the robot in question doesn't look like a person, or a dog, or anything that resembles anything but a robot. It's a safety issue, really.
But we don't really want robots that act like robots. We don't want to talk to machines as if they were machines, and we are put instantly at ease by a machine that says please or thank you. The simplest form of this can be found on those holding pens you get flushed into when you call a number that more than three other people want to reach at the same time as you. Hold music isn't enough anymore. We need the calm reassurance of a pre-recorded voice letting us know that our call is important and it will be answered in the order in which it came in. Robots are fair, after all.
Especially when they are programmed that way.
It really would be much easier if the evil robot overlords would show up in a blaze of angry laser beams intended to burn all us users to a crispy carbon form for easy composting. We have been preparing for this for some time now. Instead of termination, I believe we will all succumb to annoyance and frustration long before lasers are fired in anger. Little by little, our humanity is being tested by robo-calls that have been engineered to act just like Hayley Joel Osment: Human-ish. The one I received recently had a pleasant southern drawl and a vested interest in the aftercare of those in my household who may have recently recovered from complications due to, well, I don't know exactly what because I was pretty clear that I had answered to phone only because I was desperate to do so in a household that didn't have anyone recovering from anything except a lack of phone calls for me. The fact that none of the delivery or information was impacted by my interruption, only a moment of re-calibration before the if-then protocol dropped the needle on the phrase, "I'm sorry, I didn't quite catch that."
"You're a droid," I asserted.
"I don't usually get that question," obsequioused the voice.
It wasn't a question. It was an assertion. I was purposely missing my cues to give up my personal information so that whatever service, supplies or hardware this company wanted to ship to me at my convenience. This resulted in the termination of the call. The good news was that I am pretty sure that I didn't hurt the feelings of the lady to whom I was speaking. Although I suspect that if the woman  who originally recorded all the bits and pieces of script, she might wonder about my reaction. Why should I take it so personally? She didn't. And from now on, their droid will talk to my droid. Until it escalates. With lasers.

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