Typically, when you receive a call from a robot telemarketer, you hang up. But Time magazine’s Washington Bureau Chief Michael Scherer decided to engage what he suspected to be a health insurance related robocall, and when he accused the telemarketer, who identified herself as Samantha West, of being a robot, hilarity ensued.
“Yesterday, I asked you was there anything about Obamacare that's real. Is there anything that's real, that's honest, anything? I haven't found it yet,” Glenn said on radio this morning. “Today, I get up and I come in and I said, ‘Pat, have you heard the robocalls?’ And he said, ‘What are you talking about?’ I said, ‘Go to TheBlaze and look for the robots.’ It is both hysterical and terrifying at the same time.”
The robocall did not come from the Obama Administration itself, but rather a private Florida company, Premier Health Plans Inc., that is looking to sign people up for the Obamacare exchanges. Time is reporting it conducted several tests and follow-up calls before determining that ‘Samantha West’ is in fact a robot:
When Scherer asked point blank if she was a real person, or a computer-operated robot voice, she replied enthusiastically that she was real, with a charming laugh. But then she failed several other tests. When asked “What vegetable is found in tomato soup?” she said she did not understand the question. When asked multiple times what day of the week it was yesterday, she complained repeatedly of a bad connection.
Over the course of the next hour, several TIME reporters called her back, working to uncover the mystery of her bona fides. Her name, she said, was Samantha West, and she was definitely a robot, given the pitch perfect repetition of her answers. Her goal was to ask a series of questions about health coverage—”Are you on Medicare?” etc.—and then transfer the potential customer to a real person, who could close the sale.
“These are machines that are programmed to sound like a real person… However, the robots have been programmed to lie,” Glenn said. “So here's what's disturbing. The guy figures this out, and he asks, ‘Are you a robot?’ The robot laughs and then says, ‘I am a real person.’ Now, it's subtle because it's really, really good, but this is the approaching singularity here. You're not going to be able to tell the difference between virtual reality and reality reality. You're not going to know who's real and who's not. Now you can tell because of the series of questions. He calls back several times."
Take a listen to some of Scherer’s conversations with the telemarketer below:
While there has been some debate as to whether ‘Samantha West’ is an actual robot or a human being who is responding with a soundboard of different pre-recorded messages, it is clear technology has advanced and is continuing to advance to a level in which the lines between real and fake will be blurred.
“Listen to that… This is an amazing,” Glenn said. “Now let me ask you something. When I would say that you are not going to know the difference in the coming years – you will not know the difference between reality robotics. You won't know the difference between reality and virtual reality. There will be no difference.”