"How does it not know what it is?"

It's Actually Kind Of Heartbreaking To Hear Robot Telemarketer Insist She's A Real Person

When she's got nothing good to say or is accused of being artificially intelligent, she asks if you can hear her, and ponders whether the connection could be bad, as heard in recordings made by other Time staffers to the same number.

One of those callers keeps asking, "Are you a robot? Can you just say, 'I'm not a robot?' " to which she stiffly replies, "I am a real person." It's kind of heartbreaking to listen to, actually. She even insists she has a name, just like you and me and Siri.

Previously, previously, previously.

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11 Responses:

  1. solarbird says:

    And GlaDOS! Never forget GlaDOS. She hasn't forgotten you.

    Or what you did.

  2. pnambic says:

    "My manager IMs me. We get along pretty well. His name is Phil. Phil is an old copy of Microsoft Middle Manager 3.0. His passive-aggressive is set to low. Whoever configured him did me a solid. The only thing, and this isn’t really that big a deal, is that Phil thinks he’s a real person. […] Phil has two imaginary kids with his wife. She’s a spreadsheet program and she is a nice lady. Or lady program. She e-mails every year to remind me about his fake birthday. She knows they’re both software, but she’s never told him. I don’t have the heart to tell him either."

    (from "How to Live Safely in a Science-Fictional Universe" by Charles Yu)

  3. Xan says:

    Amazon "customer service" does the same by email.

  4. Dan says:

    I'm wondering if there is a real person back there listening and triggering phrases. Some of those pauses seemed more like a person hunting for the right phrase, instead of a computer trying to parse the sentence.

    If the designers had a sense of humor, they'd respond to the demand "Say you're not a robot" with "No, I won't say I'm not a robot".

    • k3ninho says:

      "If the designers had a sense of humor, they'd respond to the demand 'Say you're not a robot' with 'No, I won't say I'm not a robot'."

      You get points for style because the response isn't 'I'm sorry Dan, I can't do that'.

    • Neal C says:

      That's what I thought when I heard that - a human working a computer that's trying to sound human, like a recursive Mechanical Turk!

      I assume companies would do this kind of thing to make them sound like they have classier/non-foreign employees.

      Callcentre staff are supposed to stay on-script anyway, so what could -possibly- go wrong?

      I'm guessing they'd have the option to move to real-talking mode, after hitting the "I'm going to pass you over to a colleague/our overseas department" button.

      I could imagine the soundboard-operator frustratedly hammering the "I THINK I'M PEOPLE" button, knowing full wellhow fake it sounds the third time it's heard, and hoping the script-bot has been upgraded with new lines since last time this happened...

  5. Jeff Bell says:

    Apparently the Turing test is not the bright line that it used to be. In this story, a call center worker has a hard time convincing a caller that they are not a robot. From Not Always Right.

    • Ian says:

      ".. the audio on PSTN calls is 8000 Hz mono. For reference that is one less channel and 120,000 less hertz than the low quality mp3s.."

      'The ear can't hear as high as that, still I ought to please any passing bat with my high fidelity...'

      • Tim says:

        Whoever wrote that is being Very Wrong On The Internet. You can't directly compare the PSTN's 8000 Hz sample rate to the 128 Kbps bit rate of (relatively) lo-fi MP3, they are numbers which describe different things.

        For what it's worth, the PSTN's bit rate for a voice grade channel is 64 Kbps (or 56 Kbps for some systems), but even then can you directly compare it to 64 Kbps MP3? Nope. The PSTN doesn't have perceptual compression, which allows MP3 to deliver much higher SNR and dynamic range using the same channel bit rate.