Thursday, June 14, 2007

Failing the Turing Test

The target of today's rant is Dish Network. Our satellite receiver is about six years old, having a variety of problems, including stuck buttons on the remote. A couple weeks ago it gave up the ghost altogether (yeah, we've been without TV for two weeks - I think only the kids noticed.) Time to upgrade to a HD DVR version anyways.

My wife makes the call, and ends going through hoops and hoops to get nowhere except frustrated. No problem, I say, I'll take care of it. How bad could it be?

Enter the typical phone maze. Yes, I'm a customer. Here's my phone number. Tech support, let's start there. Problems with the remote. Have I changed the batteries? I select "yes", and the computer helpfully says "we've logged in our database that you have checked the batteries". Nice... can I talk to a human please?

Eventually an Indian voice asks me to give them my phone number. I think this one is a real human, but it's hard to tell, because his intonation comes off exactly like the earlier recordings. Tell me again why I'm entering my phone number for the second time before even asking a question? Wasn't the point of the first one, to skip having to tell the human?

Never mind, on to the issue at hand. I'll try to explain it here - without verbalizing the discussion it's hard to get a feel for how robotic and programmed the responses were. If I didn't think the responses where a little bit too good for current voice recognition, I'd swear I was talking to an Eliza program.

Me: There is a stuck button on my remote.

He: Ok. I'm hearing that you have a stuck button, is that correct?

Me: Yeah, that's right.

He: Ok. When did this start happening?

Me: About four weeks ago.

He: Ok. You've been having this problem for four weeks. Has the behaviour changed since you first noticed it?

Me (getting frustrated): Nope, we don't use that remote anymore, the button's stuck.

He: Ok. The behaviour has not changed.

Me: Look, can't I just get an upgrade for the satellite box, and this whole problem will go away?

He: Ok. So you want to upgrade your satellite receiver. We can do that. What is the number of your receiver?

Me: I'm at work, how do I know. You have records, look it up.

He: Ok. I'm sorry, you're going to have to call back when you get home and you can check the number on your receiver.

Me: Geez. Ok, is there a more direct line I can call next time, to speed things up?

He: Ok. You can call the appropriate number and they will help you.

Me: Right. What's the number for getting an upgrade?

He: Ok. I didn't say "upgrade", I said "appropriate".

Me: Never mind. -click-

Yeah, every single time, he would say "Ok", intoned just like the phone maze. And parrot back whatever I asked. Maybe, just maybe, it's possible I was really talking to a machine.


1 comment:

huoyangao said...

In Turing Test Two, two players A and B are again being questioned by a human interrogator C. Before A gave out his answer (labeled as aa) to a question, he would also be required to guess how the other player B will answer the same question and this guess is labeled as ab. Similarly B will give her answer (labeled as bb) and her guess of A's answer, ba. The answers aa and ba will be grouped together as group a and similarly bb and ab will be grouped together as group b. The interrogator will be given first the answers as two separate groups and with only the group label (a and b) and without the individual labels (aa, ab, ba and bb). If C cannot tell correctly which of the aa and ba is from player A and which is from player B, B will get a score of one. If C cannot tell which of the bb and ab is from player B and which is from player A, A will get a score of one. All answers (with the individual labels) are then made available to all parties (A, B and C) and then the game continues. At the end of the game, the player who scored more is considered had won the game and is more "intelligent".