Recently, I got entangled with a company’s phone representative for whom English was a second language. Both her grammar and her accent made communication difficult. Finally, she brought her supervisor on the line. His, too, was hard to understand. “Do you live in the United States,” I asked, with a sinking feeling. “Oh yes, madam, very much so.” His phrasing was enough to make me doubt him.
Thankfully, my business was a small matter and easily resolved. Nonetheless, after hanging up, I thought wistfully of Judy Dench. In The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, she plays a woman hired by an Indian company to help phone clerks relate to English speakers. If communication is difficult among humans, I wondered, what about the future? How will we succeed with robots?
My question isn’t far behind the curve, apparently. Facebook has been worrying about that question for some time and has resorted to human tutors to train their robots. (That bot could be human,” by Olivia Solon, The Week, July 27, 2018, pg. 18.) Teaching a robot to be more human is harder than they imagined. Other companies have crashed into the same brick wall. Now they train humans to sound like robots. (Ibid, pg. 18.)
When I read that last bit, I wondered if it wouldn’t be easier to stick with humans. Yes, humans require salaries, but human-to-human communication has worked for centuries. Why fix what ain’t broke?
Using robots to save cost, isn’t the sole reason to employ them I learned as I read on. It’s also about privacy. Apparently, “people tend to disclose more when they think they are talking to machines.” (Ibid, pg. 18.)
That startling bit of information gave me an idea. Perhaps Robert Mueller should pose as a robot. Then, he might learn more about Donald Trump’s Russia connection.