My Computer is Talking to Me…

I’m sorry but this HURTS. Yes its painful to listen to. Its like Stephen Hawking rolled into my bedroom and night, all creepy and underlit and insisted on reading me an unabridged copy of Moby Dick. I’m shivering beneath my bedsheets, sweating. Make it stop.

Computer generated voices despite their advances in recent years remain painful to listen to. Probably it has something to do with the uncanny valley, the realm of creepiness in which Dr. Who robots and zombies roam. While there’s plenty of work being done to improve computer voices this service still jarrs me and I find it impossible to listen to it for any period of time, let alone a three page article on Technology Review.

I applaud the attempt and realize that probably sooner than later I’ll be talking to my computer just like Scottie does on the U.S.S. Enterprise. But not yet.

Is there a risk inherent in getting this personal with our machines? I mean at what point will we draw the line? I for one believe that we should find ways to maintain the distinction. I never want to mistake a robot for a person, but by the same token I don’t want to be creeped out every time my robotic butler walks into the room.

Anyone who thinks the current state of the Internet and computing is amazing has no conception of what’s coming down the line. I suspect there will be a period during which most of us find ourselves walking through the Uncanny Valley as computers track our eye movements, make restaurant reservations for us without our asking and chat with us about our relationship problems. Perhaps Emily Nussbaum’s article is right, that there is or will be a generational gap, some of us integrating ourselves completely with our technology while the rest can only watch and wonder what’s going on.

But let me say one thing. No matter the technology, the wireless Inter-algorithm virtual AI doinkfoddles that emerge, I doubt our machines will ever be able to give us the same sense of freedom and power that climbing a mountain and standing on the summit in the crisp mountain air can impart – at least, not for some time yet…


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