Sunday, February 24, 2008

All of our computers are assisting other customers...

Ray Kurzweil is an innovative thinker and inventor who has gotten a lot of attention for his wild predictions about the future of technology. Here's a link to a story with some of his predictions (Thanks to Ahmed Bouzid for pointing out this article). Kurzweil gets a hearing because he's delivered some real cutting edge technology with his work on optical character recognition and automatic speech recognition.

So, what are the implications for speech-enabled IVRs if, as Kurzweil predicts, computers become smarter than humans? It isn't hard to imagine the following Blade Runner-like scenario.

[Customer calls a company and reaches a human customer service rep]
  • CSR: "All of our computers are currently assisting other customers. If you'd like, I can try to help you. Otherwise, please remain on the line for the next available computer."
  • Caller: "NO! Please, just let me talk to a MACHINE!"

Ha ha. We voice interface designers enjoy our little jokes. Seriously, though, people really get bent out of shape when discussing machine intelligence. I think it violates peoples' sense of specialness to have their intellect compared to a computer's. In any case, predictions by Kurzweil and others about the future of technology are great topics for conversation, so long as one keeps things in perspective.

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