This is how it starts, people. First we get our chatbots to sound and act realistic — and then we get them to convince everyone they're actually human. Listen to this crazy conversation between Time's Michael Scherer and a telemarketing robot who refuses to admit her true artificial nature.
**An update to this story can be found here**
Recently, Time Washington Bureau Chief Michael Scherer received a phone call from an apparently bright and engaging woman asking him if he wanted a deal on his health insurance. But he soon got the feeling something wasn't quite right.
After asking the telemarketer point blank if she was a real person or a computer-operated robot, she chuckled charmingly and insisted she was real. Looking to press the issue, Scherer asked her a series of questions, which she promptly failed. Such as, "What vegetable is found in tomato soup?" To which she responded by saying she didn't understand the question. When asked what day of the week it was yesterday, she complained of a bad connection (ah, the oldest trick in the book).
Here, listen for yourself:
Several Time reporters called her back.
Her name, she said, was "Samantha West." More from Time:
If you want, you can call her too. Her number is (484) 589-5611. This number, if you Google it, is the subject of much discussion online as other recipients of Samantha West calls complain on chat boards about the mysteriously persistent lady who keeps calling them. "A friendly sounded woman on the other end claimed I requested health insurance information," writes one mark. "She doggedly refused to deviate from her script."
After answering her questions, one Time reporter was transferred to an actual human who did not promptly end the call, as others had when asked about Samantha. Asked for the company's website, the real human on the other end of the line said it was premierhealthagency.com, the website of a Ft. Lauderdale company. "We're here to help. . . because we care," is the company motto on its homepage. A Time reporter called the company directly, identified himself and said Time was doing a story about the robot who calls people on the company's behalf. "We don't use robot calls, sir," said the person who answered the phone, before promptly hanging up the phone.
Disturbing, no? This is a problem that's only set to get worse. And just wait until these things are smart enough to start scamming unsuspecting victims.
[ h/t ubergizmo | Image: ociacia / Shutterstock ]