Artificial stupidity. You know those ‘people’ who call you about those ‘prizes’? Right.


(Eric Shansby)
April 29

The other day, my phone told me I had missed a call, but there was no voice mail. So I called the number back, only to be informed it was not a working number. That seemed strange, but not as strange as what happened the following day when I got a call from the same number and answered it.

Perky Woman’s Voice: I have great news from DirectBuy. You are a finalist for a grand prize of a $50,000 home makeover!

Me: Really?

PWV: Yes! Congratulations!

Me: Okay, but how many finalists are there? I don’t want to look a gift horse in the mouth, but there’s a difference between being in the Final Four and being in the Round of 64, which includes obscure play-in schools like the Elmer S. Mednick College of Applied Dentistry.

(Suspiciously long pause.)

PWV: It is true you are a finalist. We also have free vacation getaways to Las Vegas and other top destinations.

Me: Uh. Why the ... big ... pause? Are you a bear? Ha-ha.

(Suspiciously long pause)

PWV: I am with DirectBuy. Are you a DirectBuy drive-by member?

Me: Okay, wait a minute. You are a robot, aren’t you?

PWV: I am a real person.

Me: This is an interesting ontological question. I am thinking you were once a real person when you recited the dictionary into a computer, ergo the “you” I am speaking to can truthfully affirm her realness at the time she uttered the words, but that I am actually speaking to a sophisticated sound-packet analysis and retrieval unit. Are you sure you are not a robot?

(Lo-o-o-ong pause.)

PWV: I am a real person, speaking to you remotely.

Me: What the heck does that even mean? Okay, which president freed the slaves?

PWV: Sir, that is irrelevant.

Me: Ooh, you are good!

PWV: Thank you.

Me: I’m thinking you are a robot who is programmed to make the initial approach in a voice that is comfortable and familiar to Americans, not one that arouses suspicions and even triggers latent, ugly xenophobia. Once you have qualified me by establishing that I am an adult with discretionary income, you will switch me to a current human who will speak in a perfectly intelligent and cordial way, but also with telltale melodic intonation, like that Malaysian transport minister who everyone now hates. AmIrightoramIright?

PWV: Sir, that is irrelevant.

Me: Okay, here’s the deal. I promise I will buy six of anything and everything you are selling, but first you have to answer a question of mine, okay?

PWV: I’ll be happy to help you if I can.

Me: Complete this very simple phrase: “Who put the bomp in the bomp sh-bomp sh-bomp, who put the ram in the …”

(Very, very, very long pause.)

PWV: That’s irrelevant, sir.

Me: I think my work here is done. (Click.)

For stories, features such as Date Lab, @Work Advice and more, visit WP Magazine.

Follow the Magazine on Twitter.

Like us on Facebook.

E-mail us at wpmagazine@washpost.com.

SECTION: {section=lifestyle, subsection=magazine}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=3, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=15, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: {allow_comments=true, allow_photos=false, allow_videos=false, comments_period=14, comments_source=washpost.com, default_sort=, default_tab=, display_comments=true, is_ugc_gallery=false, max_items_to_display=15, max_items_to_display_top=3, moderation_required=false, stream_id=}!!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=3, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=15, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Comments
SECTION: {section=lifestyle, subsection=magazine}!!!
INITIAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=3, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=15, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!!

UGC FROM ARTICLE: {allow_comments=true, allow_photos=false, allow_videos=false, comments_period=14, comments_source=washpost.com, default_sort=, default_tab=, display_comments=true, is_ugc_gallery=false, max_items_to_display=15, max_items_to_display_top=3, moderation_required=false, stream_id=}!!!

FINAL commentConfig: {includereply=true, canvas_permalink_id=washpost.com/8bvh5zpd9k, allow_comments=true, commentmaxlength=2000, includeshare=true, display_comments=true, canvas_permalink_app_instance=m6yzjj840m, display_more=true, moderationrequired=false, includefeaturenotification=true, defaultsort=reverseChronological, canvas_allcomments_id=washpost.com/km4ey0dajm, comments_period=14, includevoteofftopic=false, allow_videos=false, includesorts=true, markerdisplay=post_commenter:Post Commenter|staff:Post Writer|top_commenter:Post Forum|top_local:Washingtologist|top_sports:SuperFan|fact_checker:Fact Checker|post_recommended:Post Recommended|world_watcher:World Watcher|cultuer_connoisseur:Culture Connoisseur|weather_watcher:Capital Weather Watcher|post_contributor:Post Contributor, childrenitemsperpage=3, includeheader=true, includeverifiedcommenters=true, defaulttab=all, includerecommend=true, includereport=true, maxitemstop=3, source=washpost.com, allow_photos=false, maxitems=15, display_ugc_photos=false, includepause=true, canvas_allcomments_app_instance=6634zxcgfd, includepermalink=false}!!
Show Comments