In a crisis would you be prepared to deal with a smart machine over another human being?

Over Christmas I unfortunately had to call the emergency services at a friend’s house. Suffice to say that I was somewhat anxious. The operator on the end of the telephone was wonderful. She had one of those slow silky voices that was not only calming, but which somehow demanded complete obedience.

So here’s the thing. A week or so later my mind started wandering off as it does and I began to wonder whether one day the emergency services might be tempted to replace human call centre operatives with synthetic voices (in other words fully automated digital systems). It wouldn’t be that difficult to do and the cost savings would be significant. In a moment of sci-fi imagining I even wondered whether it might be possible to select celebrity voices to converse with, much in the same way that you can select celebrity voices to add to your in-car GPS navigation system.

Weirder things have happened…


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