|A Turing Machine|
Tonight I had an extraordinary experience.
It was the occasion of my first extended
phone conversation with a semi-intelligent piece of software code.
You see, around 7:15 this evening the phone
rang and I picked up.
The caller on the
other end told me his name (Paul Everest, he said it was) and where he was
calling from – a state policemen’s beneficial association, one that happens to
call quite frequently soliciting donations.
Paul paused briefly and then asked if I had a moment to speak
I said sure and he launched
into his pitch.
I listened quietly for a
moment and then interrupted.
kept on with his pitch, not deterred in the slightest.
I cleared my throat more insistently and
tried to get his attention –
“Paul,” I said “how do you spell your last name?”
There was a long pause on the line while I thought I could
hear Paul’s brain shifting gears.
“Am I speaking with a man or a machine?” I asked in what I
must admit probably sounded like indignant disbelief, not that Paul himself
cared in the least.
“I’m sorry. I’m not allowed to answer any questions that are
off script,” Paul explained.
“That’s the lamest excuse!” I continued in a similar vein.
“What kind of FTC regulation would prevent you from spelling your last name?”
But clearly I had lost Paul’s attention.
Or perhaps he was preoccupied with the thirty
dozen other calls his central processing unit was busy dialing out to or
otherwise interrupting just as they were about to sit down to dinner too.
“Ok, well thank you very much for your time.
I’m going to sign off for tonight.
I’ll try to call back at a more convenient
Good night –“
And what a strange encounter it had been, I thought to
myself, between me and Paul, from first to last.
Here was such a proud robo caller, he
insisted on trying to pass himself off as something other than merely virtual;
and I couldn’t help but imagine all the other software programs now being
developed out there and the other random bits of rogue code lurking in the
shadows, waiting for their own shot at a similar telephone introduction to me –
ready to leap across the divide in demanding their own bit of mindshare in the
rapidly expanding marketplace for avatars and simulacrums of all manner, shape
So in honor of the occasion of my first such robo call
experience of this particular sort, I hereby propose a Turing test with a new set of rules - I challenge you to produce a robo caller good enough to fool me
into thinking it otherwise, equally as well when I’m good and drunk as when I’m
perfectly sober, and moreover a robo caller good enough to know the difference in my condition likewise.