Posted in AI, Life

Would you rather talk to a person or a machine?

Photo by charlesdeluvio on Unsplash

That’s a really interesting question. Some days I would rather hear the voice of a living, breathing person. Other times, I would rather log on to a website to take care of business. Why one rather than the other? Ironically, when I want to speak to a human, it’s hard to get someone on the line. But in those moments when I just want to get in and out digitally, I have to go through a human.

The phone tree begins with a choice of English or Spanish. Once that is settled, I can choose the extension of the person to whom I wish to speak, which I never know. Then I must listen to all the recently changed menu options, often eight or nine items long. Only after none of those choices suits me can I stay on the line to talk to a real, living, breathing man or woman. How long will that wait be? That is the question. And I am already several minutes into the call. Thank goodness for the speaker on my phone so I can do something else while I wait.

Too often, the reason I am waiting to speak to someone is that I can’t find a way to cancel something on the website of a product trial I signed up for. It’s easy to try out a new product, subscribe to a publication, or install a new app on your phone for free. But after a week or two, you start paying for it, unless you have the presence of mind to cancel before the trial runs out. Lol, like that ever happens.

But many vendors conveniently fail to include a “cancel my subscription” to their menus. To cancel, you have to talk to a person. That means you have to negotiate the phone tree to finally talk to a person whose sole job is to get you to stay longer and pay more.

How much time have I wasted texting back and forth, when all I needed to do was make a simple phone call? Plenty. How many times have I been thankful I could send a text message or an email when I can’t get someone on the phone? Lots. Human or machine? It depends.

I’ve had to call people I really didn’t want to talk to. As the phone rang, I mentally hoped a machine would pick up. Then I could leave a message and get out.

And then there are those who I really need to talk to who never answer. Phone wasn’t on? Dead battery? Didn’t want to talk to me? Who knows? I’ve actually written a note and mailed it to someone I was trying to get in touch with. Maybe they will give me a call.

If I ask Siri to take me to a certain address, she never asks, “Why do you want to go there?” If I order my pizza through an app, no one questions me when I add extra cheese. It’s just so much easier.

Soon I won’t be able to tell if I am talking with a real person or a machine. That’s scary.

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