My dog is smarter than your computer


My dog is smarter than your computer.

And everyone hates your company's automated phone-answering service.

Some qualifiers: My dog is smart, for a dog (see clip below), but she can't beat Kasparov in chess. She can, however, recognize emotion in words, something speech-recognition software is having a very hard time learning.

And when I say "everyone" hates the system that greets your customers every day, I'm exaggerating for effect. Only nine out of ten callers are dissatisfied with interactive voice response systems (IVR).

It's not like people are just getting used to these things, either: Americans spent 43 billion minutes connected to the machines last year.

Also, your CFO might like your IVR, because automated answering is so much cheaper than live human answering. At least until the customers stop calling.

All of this info, except for the part about my dog, comes from an article by John Seabrook in The New Yorker dated June 23, 2008; it's abstracted here.

The piece is called "Hello, Hal." The Hal in the title is the talking computer from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and the big idea is that we are not yet able to build machines that can pass a Turing Test (that is, carry on a conversation with a human being that convinces the human that she is speaking with another real person).

Seabrook: "It's possible that true emotional recognition is beyond the limits of the probabilistic approach."


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