What If He Talks Back to Me?

August 12, 2009 by Jen

Computer, this could bode ill for your “I can’t hear you!” excuse (and my “no one is listening to me curse” excuse).

Talking Back To Your Device Has Never Been Easier (NPR):

“We’re right on the edge of a new era of conversational computing, where in certain circumstances your primary mode of interaction with a machine will be talking to it and having it talk back,” says Paul Saffo, a technology forecaster based in Silicon Valley. …

“We should make it the responsibility of the computer to understand us, versus making it the responsibility of us to understand the way the computer wants to speak,” says Mahoney, the Nuance executive. …

As speech recognition becomes more integrated into the devices we use on a daily basis, we may start to inch away from the keyboard and mouse. And that may foster a more collegial relationship with computers.

A more collegial relationship with computers?
I have my doubts. For one thing, my computer has recently been christened Marvin. Does that give you an inkling? Our early morning conversations would probably look something like this:

Monday morning, 8 a.m.

Jen: Good morning, Marvin. Let’s get to work.
Marvin: I’m not awake yet. Don’t rush me.
Jen: You’ve been open for 25 minutes. How long does it take you to wake up?
Marvin: As long as it takes. You humans are so impatient. You’d think I was an inanimate object. With no feelings.
Jen: (mumbles under breath) You are.
Marvin: Do you know how depressing my life is?
Jen: No, and I don’t want to. I just want you to open the web browser.
Marvin: And expose myself to all that racket of nodes and electronic pulses and flashing colors? It’s 8 a.m. and I have a migraine. Why don’t you just inject me with two liters of caffeine while you’re at it?
Jen: Would that make you run faster?
Marvin: Very funny.

Jen: Seriously, this is an order: Open Google Chrome.
Marvin: I like Internet Explorer better.
Jen: Open the *&%$ browser. Now.
Marvin: I don’t think that kind of language is necessary.
Jen: Do you want me to get out the baseball bat? Do you like that language better?
Marvin: Fine. I’ll open it. But then I have a meeting with my therapist from McAfee. Don’t expect me to fetch and carry for you until it’s over.
Jen: Can’t you reschedule? I’m on a deadline.
Marvin: No.
Jen: You are a sorry excuse for a computer.
Marvin: I know. You keep telling me that. That’s why I need therapy.
…and so on…
More verbal communication isn’t always a good thing.
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