I Am A Real Person

Friday, January 10, 2014

Transcript

When Time Washington bureau chief Michael Scherer got a call from a telemarketer named Samantha West, he knew the voice on the other end of the line wasn't quite right somehow. Yet Samantha West kept insisting she was, in fact, human. OTM producer Chris Neary finds out who, or what, Samantha West really is. 

Guests:

Alexis Madrigal, Zeke Miller, Denver Nicks, Michael Scherer and Samantha West

Contributors:

Chris Neary

Comments [8]

James from New Orleans

James: the music is from Kronos Quartet's "Pieces of Africa" CD

Jan. 14 2014 04:29 PM
James

I really enjoyed this story...and the music that played at the end and separated it from the next story. What was that piece? Thanks!

Jan. 14 2014 08:50 AM
John

I think the new "This is NPR." voice is a cyborg. She sounds like a robot Pam from the Office. So bland. Annoying delivery.

Jan. 13 2014 03:03 PM
Robotnik from Upstate NY

I was a little surprised by the 'cyborg' theory that Chris Neary came up with: it wouldn't have been my first choice.

There are AI companies out there (I am acquainted with the technology behind one of them) that are almost certainly capable of generating those responses quite automatically, with no happy button-pushing telemarketer sitting out back. So I would guess that this is just the next wave, and it really will be purely robotic. For some time I have been waiting to see when the tech that I knew was in the pipeline would filter down to the street, and I think your story today was actually that moment.

Jan. 13 2014 01:56 PM
Mary

I'm so glad you did this story. A few months ago I had just started a new job and got a call at work from one of these robot/cyborgs. After a few minutes, I asked it if it was a computer and it hung up on me. I was pretty sure it was a robot, but also worried that I was mistaken and had insulted a client.

Jan. 13 2014 10:43 AM
Mike Patterson from Fleetwood, NY

Quite honestly, I'd rather talk to Samantha West than try to traverse the accent behind button pusher.
I find it extremely frustrating that companies off shore telemarketing to places where the accent is indecipherable. This seems like a very reasonable fix!

Jan. 13 2014 08:49 AM
Bob from Rhode Island

One angle I'm surprised didn't come up in the story is that this tech has been in use by the severely disabled for years. The most media friendly is Stephan Hawking, who has a number of things he wants to say programmed into his device which he then uses to communicate.

I wonder if companies employing this tech are attempting to counter the biases associated with the stereotypes assigned to individual telemarketers who present with heavy accents or dialects from outside the regional or national norms.

Jan. 13 2014 06:43 AM
richard pauli from seattle

Great story. Thanks.

Obviously here is an opportunity for a clever person to build a smartphone app that plays back canned responses.

Call it dueling cyborg calls.

Jan. 12 2014 09:44 PM

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