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    While technically interesting, looks like backwards progress: instead of selecting dates in calendar, where free and occupied slots are visible, instead of typing address with autocomplete or clicking on map, you have to call by phone and talk like in 1970s. Imagine how this technology can transform Uber: it can finally become vintage call-by-phone taxi service.

    I don’t understand obsession with voice interfaces (and other things where text is replaced by voice, such as video courses). It looks like hype originating from stupidiest sci-fi movies, where trashcan-shaped robots take voice commands (but the flying space shed itself is still controlled by transparent monitors and Atari joysticks). It’s like dropping ancient sumerian technology of writing and going back to vocal-only communication.

    Update: didn’t read article thoroughly: it’s vice versa, for calling businesses with phone operators by robot, it’s even more surreal.

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      The problem this is solving is that many businesses do not have online booking, so this gives the user an interface they are ok with and then uses existing interfaces to execute on it, which in this case is a phone call.

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        re: your update: Yep. Probably the customer’s interface to the Google robocaller is a calendar app… So the robot voice is a middleman. An API, if you will.

        Entirely related: check out the music video with 10 million views that comes up if you search (with duck duck go for example) for: blockhead “the music scene”.

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        “Hi, uh, I’m calling to set up a hair appointment, oh, uh, and I’m legally required to let you know that I am a robot. Do you have anything between uh 10 and 3?”

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          [Disclosure: I work at Google but not on this particular tech.]

          I don’t understand the issue with being called by Duplex; it’s got to be way less annoying than the robocalls we currently receive, right?

          I do get that people are worried about it making some job functions obsolete but that’s pretty much the point of technology, right?

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            it’s got to be way less annoying than the robocalls we currently receive, right?

            It seems like it’d mostly be more annoying to me. I don’t personally ever answer a phone unless it’s a call from someone I know, so it doesn’t affect me personally. But I do sometimes spend longer periods of time visiting my parents, who have a landline and do regularly answer it. And a huge portion of the calls they get are robocalls.

            One of the things I realized from that is that an almost-automatic Turing test for rejecting robocalls is a basic defensive measure in that environment. They typically realize within seconds when the caller is a robocall and hang up. The entire exchange of picking up the phone, listening, and hanging up can take 3-4 seconds and barely changes their expression or interrupts what they were doing before—they only switch into “really answering the phone” mode if it passes the initial robocall screen.

            In that scenario, it seems very bad if the robocall can manage to sound like a human for more than 3 seconds, because it hugely ups the time/attention cost of robocall filtering. Even very non-AI tech is already trying to exploit attention in that way. In the 2016 election cycle, a number of candidates for office mass-deployed robocalls that were carefully designed with an initial recorded sequence designed to sound conversational, with pauses inserted, to trick you into getting further into the call before hanging up.

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              But in this case the caller is effectively a customer so presumably you’d want to talk to them.

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                Does Google really have a solid plan to make sure that the vast majority of people using this technology won’t very quickly become telemarketers, as has happened with every previous robocall technology?

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                  AFAIK, the raw technology is not being made available to anybody to abuse; it’ll just be used to power specific consumer use-cases. That wasn’t true for other robocall tech.

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            I’ll say this: it’s telling that matters of transparency, disclosure, and trust weren’t considered important for the initial release.

            It’s not released.

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              Technology: Creating even more barriers to having real human interactions.

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                In this case, however, it’s replacing interactions that are very transactional, not the fulfilling & meaningful type.

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                  That is to imply you can’t have a meaningful relationship with your barber or a waiter, which’s definitely not true.

                  The less we communicate the more we dehumanize service workers.

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                    I have a meaningful relationship with my barber but it doesn’t rely on setting up appointments so much as chatting while he cuts my hair.

                    And I’m not convinced it’s possible to have a meaningful relationship with a waiter any more now than it will be with Duplex. If you believe otherwise, I’d love to hear your reasoning.