I had a strange incident happen to me this morning. I received a call from a robot! Seriously. Not only received a call from it, I engaged in conversation with it. The disquieting fact is that it took me at least 3-4 minutes to figure that out.
Here’s how it goes in case you get one. Your phone rings; you pick it up and say hello. That initiates the robocaller–in my case, a female voice so melodic, so sweet, so sexy you do not want to hang up on her even if you are on the National Do Not Call Registry, and you have to be a damned fool not to be. The voice is nearly perfect–you do not recognize it as a robocall.
Sales calls irritate the living bejesus out of me because the callers know it is against the law to call you if you are on the registry, but lately–over the past year or so–these yahoos have been freely calling whoever they damned well please. One trick they use–and I do not understand how–is to show a number on your caller ID that, if you call it, gives you a message that the number is no longer in service. Someone told me you can arrange service with the phone company to have a phone that you can call out on but no one can call you using it?
If you are lucky, and if you bring their transgression to their attention politely, sometimes they are civil, will actually apologize, and say, sincerely, “Oh, I am so sorry. I will remove your name from our call list immediately.” That courteous apology may occur about one-third of the time. (Even then you receive the same phone call a few days later from the same company.)
The other two-thirds of the offenders angrily express to me their irritation at my even bringing the point up about the registry, and in language I cannot provide in this article–crude to the extreme–cursing me out roundly and stridently for being so rude as to interrupt their sales call! I, being me, give it and more back to them before they hang up.
However, I once had this bloke remain on the line, and continue cussing me out in the most loathsome manner, astonishingly all the while using the foulest of foul language–even after I tersely reminded him I was on the registry of people not to call. I was able, due to my many years in the Marine Corps, and having served a few months aboard U. S. Navy vessels, to at least retort with equally profane words, some of which I hadn’t used in years.
Finally, this interloper issued a nonstop blue streak of profanity, then hung up. I think I may have been tied with him in vulgarity to that point. However, that final outburst, for which I had no recourse due to his terminating our dialogue so abruptly, may have given him the right to crow in his office (he was loud enough that surely everyone there heard our conversation–at least his end of it.) and run around the room receiving high fives from all.
But back to my sweet little robocaller with the sexy voice. When I answered hello, there was a slight pause. I guess Ms. Robo Sexy was computing my speech. Then there is Ms. Robo Sexy saying my name, asking how I am doing this morning, and asking if I would be interested in a free gift.
(I will bet if my voice was feminine, Ms. Robo Sexy would be programmed to say “Mrs. Whomever.” But, if I were a female, the marketing people would undoubtedly change the robocall voice to that of a deep-throated man such as Isaac Hayes. They are that clever. Imagine that ladies. You are half-asleep, heading to the kitchen for that second cup of coffee when the phone rings. You pick it up and say, “Hello?” Suddenly, the Theme from Shaft comes through your earpiece, and shortly thereafter an Isaac Hayes-like voice begins talking to you, asking how you are this morning, and if you’d like a free gift? My guess? There would be an abrupt readjustment of those bikini undergarments you are wearing! I’m just sayin’… )
In my case, “she” did not allow me the opportunity to respond yes or no as to whether or not I wanted a free gift–she was into her sales pitch without hesitation. The small favor they were asking was that if I would let them place a little blue sign in my yard advertising their product, I would get the free security system–or whatever it was they were peddling. I chuckled and told her I didn’t have a yard of my own per se–I live in a condo and own an undivided interest equal to 1/62nd of all the “yard,” or rather my owner does.
The computer program (Ms. Robo Sexy) picked up on the word condo immediately and the tone changed. The programmers haven’t perfected termination of the call too well because near the end, when I did not qualify for the free gift, you could tell it was a robocall–there was a hint of the machine dialect you hear in Sci-Fi movies or TV programs about outer space when computers are communicating in voice mode. Abruptly, Ms. Robo Sexy was noticeably less sexy, considerably more interested in concluding the call. The difference in the voice was not overly apparent, but it was perceptible that it was a recorded call computerized to deal with whatever input it was given–that tell-take delay in such voice communications with computers.
Based on my responses, the computer program had alternatives–maybe thousands of them, possibly millions, depending on what I answered to Ms. Robo Sexy’s questions. At the word “condo,” it switched emphasis from having me agree to accept a gift to a tact of ending our conversation–politely, but quickly. The programmers knew full well that a condo owner cannot place signs on association property, not even real estate signs in most cases. Their program reflected that.
I have not given you the full range of the dialogue, which was more extensive and fast-flowing–from Ms. Robo Sexy’s perspective. It was a cleverly constructed sales pitch, except a human sales person was not presenting it. No matter. It was effective to a degree, and it took me awhile to catch on.
Now, put yourself in my shoes. You were just working on that second cup of coffee–meaning not yet fully awake. You suddenly realize that you have been carrying on a conversation with a robot for three to four minutes, answering questions, making declarative statements, being polite–and, yes, enjoying the alluring, melodious, siren-like voice of Ms. Robo Sexy in your ear. Who wouldn’t, if male? Now if that doesn’t make you feel foolish, what does?
My question: Have we gone too far–or will computers/robots inevitably take over our lives someday? This experience makes me wonder if that day is not already here!
The future will look futuristic only because we will be trying to make it look futuristic. ~Anonymous