Civil Discourse Now

Where the far left and far right overlap for fun and enlightenment

  Robo-calls annoy me, but amuse me at rare times.
  One aspect of robo-calls is the development of computers that speak in complete phrases and answer questions.
  The past few months, after the feel came that “HAL” (see “2001: A Space Odyssey”) was on the other end of the line, I have asked, “Are you a computer?”  At first the calls simply ended. The programmers must have adapted, and other people asked questions similar to mine, because the computers began to say something to the effect of either: (a) “Do I sound that bad?” or (b) “No—I am a real person.”
   I had flashbacks to “I Think We’re All Bozos on This Bus,” by Firesign Theater, in which a person engages in dialogue with a computer.
   I started to ask another pair of questions, the specifics of the numbers in the second question, varying. “May I ask you a question?” Pause as the program runs. “Yes.” My second question: “What is seven plus three?”
   The programs are not set up to answer those questions. The math was simple enough. If the computer was a real person, I would think the answer would be given.
   Instead, either the computer would hang up, or, a couple of times, would say, “You do not have to use abusive language with me.”
   The latest development, however, is so piquant.  
   When I ask “Are you a computer?” the answer is something to the effective of: “I am a real person, but I have a physical handicap that prevents me from speaking without the use of a computer.”  Of course my next question is a simple math problem, after which the computer tells me not to use abusive language.  One computer even asked if I was making fun of it.
   Perhaps, as friends have pointed out, I should not have kept my “land line” number.  I would have been spared these calls, and the polling surveys during the past year’s elections.
   On the other hand, even HAL should be honest. Otherwise, I believe the pod bay doors are closed and we have no one available to open them

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