Thursday, 3 September 2009

Britain is no country for old men who can't hear or speak clearly

I've just had my first experience of talking to a computer. It was a bit like the astronauts talking to Hal in the 1968 film : '2001: A Space Odyssey'. In this case the voice was pleasant and female.

I was applying over the phone for a renewal of my European Health Insurance Card.

The computer voice, I'm going to call her 'Val', asked me for my number, name, date of birth. post code, first line of my address and then asked me if I could be contacted on the number I was calling from.
In each case I spoke clearly and slowly and was rewarded by 'Val' with encouraging expressions like " great ". If I'd been a dog I would have wagged my tail.

What a strange world we live in where we feel gratified when, the disembodied voice from a computer down a telephone line, metaphorically pats us on the head and says "great" when we get something right.

I have a feeling that I have just had my first taste of the shape of things to come.

The voice of Hal :

The film director Stanley Kubric chose the voice of Canadian actor, Douglas Rain for the calm, rational voice of Hal. Apparently 'Hal' is an amalgam of 'heuristic' and 'algorithmic' - the 2 main processes of learning.

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