Filed under: Arthur C. Clarke, Artificial Intelligence, Augmented Reality, Brave New World, Expert systems, Humor, Marketing, movies, Paleo-Future, Predictions, Science Fiction, Society, tech, TIME Magazine | Tags: 2001: A Space Odyssey, Arthur C. Clarke, artificial intelligence, blogging, Communion of Dreams, HAL, HAL9000, humor, jim downey, movies, predictions, Science Fiction, Seth, St. Cybi's Well, technology
One with an ‘expert’ like Seth from Communion of Dreams?
Ha! Sucker. You should know that reality would prove to be more … banal. And corporate. Like this:
The phone call came from a charming woman with a bright, engaging voice to the cell phone of a TIME Washington Bureau Chief Michael Scherer. She wanted to offer a deal on health insurance, but something was fishy.
When Scherer asked point blank if she was a real person, or a computer-operated robot voice, she replied enthusiastically that she was real, with a charming laugh. But then she failed several other tests. When asked “What vegetable is found in tomato soup?” she said she did not understand the question. When asked multiple times what day of the week it was yesterday, she complained repeatedly of a bad connection.
Over the course of the next hour, several TIME reporters called her back, working to uncover the mystery of her bona fides. Her name, she said, was Samantha West, and she was definitely a robot, given the pitch perfect repetition of her answers. Her goal was to ask a series of questions about health coverage—”Are you on Medicare?” etc.—and then transfer the potential customer to a real person, who could close the sale.
Hmm, I think I can still work “Samantha” into St. Cybi’s Well …
Filed under: Art, Arthur C. Clarke, Artificial Intelligence, Blade Runner, Brave New World, Connections, Expert systems, Feedback, General Musings, Humor, movies, Music, NPR, Predictions, Psychic abilities, Religion, Ridley Scott, Science, Science Fiction, Society, Survival, tech, Writing stuff, YouTube | Tags: 2001: A Space Odyssey, A.I., Arthur C. Clarke, artificial intelligence, Blade Runner, blogging, Christoph Bartneck, Clifford Nass, Communion of Dreams, deva, Expert, feedback, HAL, humor, jim downey, movies, music, NPR, predictions, reviews, Ridley Scott, science, Science Fiction, Seth, Siri, St. Cybi's Well, technology, Vangelis, video, writing, www youtube
One of the things I’ve been a little bit surprised by has been just how many people have volunteered to me (or in reviews) just how much they like the ‘Experts’ in Communion of Dreams, and in particular how much of a favorite character Seth becomes to them in the course of the novel.
I don’t mean I’m surprised by how much people like the Experts, and particularly Seth. Hell, I intended the Experts to be likeable. I mean that this is something which people find remarkable enough to, well, remark on it.
That’s because humans tend to anthropomorphize just about everything. Our pets. Our cars. Our tools. Even nature. It’s one of the basic ways that we make sense of the world, as can be seen in religious and spiritual beliefs. Long before Siri there was HAL, and inasmuch as Communion of Dreams is an homage to 2001: A Space Odyssey I knew that Seth would resonate as a ‘real person’.*
So this morning I was amused to hear a story on NPR about how giving computers/robots more human characteristics tends to cause humans to develop a greater sense of empathy and socialization with them. Amused, but not surprised. From the article:
Many people have studied machine-human relations, and at this point it’s clear that without realizing it, we often treat the machines around us like social beings.
* * *
What the study demonstrated was that people do in fact obey the rule of reciprocity when it comes to computers. When the first computer was helpful to people, they helped it way more on the boring task than the other computer in the room. They reciprocated.
* * *
“The relationship is profoundly social,” he says. “The human brain is built so that when given the slightest hint that something is even vaguely social, or vaguely human — in this case, it was just answering questions; it didn’t have a face on the screen, it didn’t have a voice — but given the slightest hint of humanness, people will respond with an enormous array of social responses including, in this case, reciprocating and retaliating.”
On the NPR website version of the story there’s also this delightful video showing what happens when a robot with cat/human characteristics begs a research subject to not switch it off:
Interesting. But again, unsurprising. Consider the whole sequence in 2001: A Space Odyssey when HAL is shut down — a powerful and poignant part of the movie. And referenced at the end of the video above.
Lastly, I laughed out loud once the story was over on NPR, and the transitional bit of music started up. Why? Because it was an instrumental work by the artist Vangelis, composed as the Love Theme from the movie Blade Runner.