The velveteen robot

“But I am Real!” No, honey, you’re not:

This particular telemarketer for a company hawking health insurance has her own name and a tinkle of laughter to go along with her denial of actually being a robot.

Time’s Washington Bureau Chief Michael Scherer encountered the robo-woman when his cell phone rang and the voice on the other end wanted to know if he was looking for a good deal on health insurance (sassy!). Things didn’t sound quite right, so he asked point blank if she was a real person or a robot voice.

She laughs it off and says of course, she’s a “real person.” But she couldn’t answer other simple questions that weren’t part of her script, like “What vegetable is in tomato soup?” (although technically, a tomato is a fruit, but whatever) or “What day of the week was it yesterday?”

When she’s got nothing good to say or is accused of being artificially intelligent, she asks if you can hear her, and ponders whether the connection could be bad, as heard in recordings made by other Time staffers to the same number.

Just once, I want one of these quasi-creatures to call up James T. Kirk. Won’t last an hour.


  1. Dan T. »

    13 December 2013 · 7:36 am

    Robots are getting better and better at conversing with humans, as seen with Siri and the Jeopardy-playing Watson… eventually one of them might pass the Turing test.

  2. CGHill »

    13 December 2013 · 7:50 am

    Or humans might pass them on the way down.

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