Jack TenneyExtra Point

by Jack Tenney, Publisher

September 2018

Artificial intelligence is here and it doesn’t like me.

A.I. has been around for a while and keeps growing, and like Stephen Hawking speculated, it’s taking over.

Starting someplace simple and thinking about voice mail, there was a time when a person with the power and authority to respond to your phone call had a personal assistant (aka gatekeeper) who would pleasantly ask why you wanted to talk with “whom you were calling.”

Of course, not everyone you needed to contact had a gatekeeper — they weren’t cheap, you know. Enter voice mail, and pretty soon everyone had voice mail and even voice mail gatekeepers.

“If you know your party’s …” Since you didn’t know your party’s extension, you learned to try pressing “0,” which often brought you to another decision tree, even suggesting you could get almost everything you needed at the firm’s website.

When it turns out the website is in the cloud, you are asked to sign in or join or open an account. If you are sure you want whatever you hope to get, you enter your email address and create a password. That brings you to a non-human interface where you might opt to visit the FAQs or, after a bit, you can send an email.

That email will generate a response thanking you for your interest and perhaps suggesting you return to the website or call the number you originally called.

It can be a bear to sometimes go for days without human contact. But then your phone rings, and because you didn’t put it on DND or have it go to voice mail, you pick up hoping it might be someone with an answer to the original but still unfulfilled quest.

“Hello?” you may brightly answer.

A charming voice begins, “Hi, John, this is on a recorded line and I would like to get your opinion.” Do you rudely hang up? Not to worry, that wasn’t a real person, it was a robo call. No offense given, no problem.

You now could hang in there and chat with Siri or Amazon’s Alexa, who has actually navigated a phone tree at a restaurant and made a reservation, got driving and parking information, and decided on alternative times. No report on whether the reservation-taker was a human or a bot. Verizon expects most usage of its G5 will be by the internet of things — cars talking to roads and stuff.

You think driverless Uber car service is going to be cool? Have you ever had a dull conversation with a cab driver? My daughter the Uber driver is often asked what her real job is. She tells them she is a miniature golf course inspector. Very interesting, she explains. She’s going to get replaced by a self-driving G5 credit card processor.

Who do you tip?