RANT ROOM: Robots Calling

698px-Alt_TelefonThe phone rings. I pick it up. A robot starts talking in my ear. Well, not a robot, but an electronically recorded voice. I hang up. This happens about seven times a day.

I’m on a no-call list, but there’re so many loopholes so as to make its value questionable. First of all,  the politicians exempt themselves–of course. Only a politician could be so megalomaniacal as to think that a person who expressly requests not to be bothered by anyone by phone is secretly awaiting his robo-call.  Second, charities are exempt, whether it’s the March of Dimes or the Irritable Bowel Syndrome Defense Fund.  There seem to be more charities calling than ever. Or, perhaps, they’re like Phnom Penh urchins– if you give one of them money it induces a swarm. (Or, more likely, they make all the big money by selling contact lists to other charities.) Finally, any business that you’ve ever done business with is exempt  (even monopoly phone companies and utilities, for which you had no choice but a third world existence), as well as the parent companies that bought a company that you did business with once 20 years ago.

People who know me will tell you that I don’t even like to talk on the phone with human beings that I like, what hope would a machine have? Answer: “None.”

Now, let it be known that I’m not anti-machine. In 200 years, when they unfreeze my brain after the Terminator Wars, I’m not going to be one of the douche-bags standing on a picket like to prevent little T8-Y0 from going to school with the human kids and super-intelligent dolphins. I just resent someone calling me, intent on taking up my time, without even having the common courtesy to be intelligent–artificially or otherwise.

Some will say, “But, Bernie, you’ve called me and said not a word that was remotely intelligent.”

To that I say, “Nuh-uh, stop being a jerk-head.”

I almost always meet the technical definition of “intelligent” (self-aware? I’m self-obsessed!) when I call someone on the phone, and that’s all I expect of others.  I would pass a Turing test because the evaluator would say, “Any machine would maintain a train of thought better than this guy. He’s all over the place. He must be human. Plus, he can’t do math for shit.” [If you want to weed the androids out of your life, ask them to divide 49  by 18. If they answer automatically and correctly to two decimal points, stake them through the oil pump. If they are one of those “Human Calculators,” they deserve it for betraying their kind–but I’m not speciesist.]

Still, this brings one question to mind, how lonely do you have to be to listen to a machine blather on? Obviously the companies using robo-calls have sufficient success to keep paying their phone bills. That means that some people have to hear the robot voice and say, “What the heck? Let me hear what R2-D2 has to say.”

Who does this? I’ve heard that some people have guilt issues with hanging up on people because they were “raised right.” I can’t claim to understand this. It’s not an affliction that burdens me. I will hang up on anyone who assumes they can make demands on my time without compensation in about two microseconds. Yes, I said it, Mom. (Just kidding, I’m really talking to cable companies, natural gas providers, credit card companies, etc.)

Still, even if one feels guilty about hurting the feelings of a person, why would the same guilt apply to machines–which do not have feelings to hurt.

I mean, does this person think the caller might be a T-101 calling from the future to warn him that a mean T-1000 is on its way to poke him to death with a memory metal finger? I guess that sounds reasonable… no, no it doesn’t.

Alternatively, do people sit around thinking, I wish someone would call me up and tell me what I want, because I have no idea.

Maybe I just don’t understand this mindset. No person has ever convinced me to make an impulse buy by yapping. I’ve never said, “Gee-whiz, you’re right, I definitely need this product or plan that I didn’t know existed five minutes ago.”

It has occurred to me that I might be taking the wrong tack by hanging up on these calls instantaneously. By doing that, I am helping them weed out an unlikely sale in as inexpensive a manner as possible. The next time a robot calls me, I think I’ll put the phone down next to the radio–playing easy listening, of course–and then walk off. I encourage you all to do the same.