I call my insurance company and a robotic voice answers, telling me to press 1 for English. The voice returns and tells me to enter my account number. I punch 9 digits. Brief silence and then robotic voice tells me to press 2 for sales; 3 for billing; 4 for…I press 3, listen to a few rings, and get another robot, who again wants my account number. I re-enter the same 9 digits. Another brief silence and then I’m advised that the “next available representative will take my call” and “this call may be recorded for training purposes.”
Some sites give me an idea how long I can expect to wait. Most sites have some looped-music that plays to keep me distracted, although some leave me sitting in silence.
This happens with almost every vendor I call.
If I’m unlucky, I get disconnected. If I’m lucky, someone eventually comes on. If I’m super lucky, that first person can help me. If not, they send me to someone in a different department. But they don’t deliver me to a person; they toss me into the existing phone queue for that department. Which may or may not have the same hold-music. And may or may not ask me to push more buttons.
I’m skeptical of all this button-pushing, account-number-entering, and musical-loop-listening. I suspect it’s designed to keep me occupied so I won’t notice that the company is wasting my time. Each activity they have me engage in provides a false promise of getting me where I want to go. But I’m thinking it’s a ruse. They’re simply distracting me to give themselves more time. They’re saving money; at my expense. This makes me grumpy. And suspicious.
As I sit trapped in the land of looped music, my mind wanders. Given all the recordings of calls for “training purposes,” I wonder, what happens to all those calls? Are they actually used for training? I imagine classes sitting and listening and laughing as frustrated customers interact with agents.
Then my thoughts get dark. I consider the possibility that all those calls are actually saved. Millions of them. Big Data. Could tech companies acquire all these saved, disembodied voices and use technology to construct sentences, sounding as if they were spoken by specific people? Could it be used in conjunction with artificial intelligence and machine learning?
A full-on conspiracy character grabs hold. I know our ability to trust our senses is being severely challenged. Photos used to be used to prove things because we trusted our eyes; Photoshop bombed that.
Yet we’re wired to believe things when multiple senses are engaged: we see flames, smell smoke and feel heat and we’re convinced there’s a fire.
Video delivers at least two senses—sight and sound—making it more powerful than a still image. I’ve tended to trust videos. But if technology can twist and turn and manipulate words being spoken in a video so it looks and sounds authentic—as if spoken by the person we see—can we still trust them?
New technology already allows this type of video manipulation. I’ve seen examples that have alarmed me. Are these videos going to be propaganda on steroids? And could these recorded customer-service phone calls be used to contribute to this?
The looped-phone-music continues. I’ve been on hold for 10 minutes with my insurance company.
And here I am, imagining my disembodied recorded phone call ultimately getting used in a nefarious way to create a forged video to be sent into the media-sphere with an intent to deceive.
Dang. These companies need to shorten their hold times. Or I need to tamp down my conspiracy-theorist. ‘Cause this has become one incredibly stressful “hold.”
Daily Post-Inspired: Authentic
Articles on Deepfake Videos:
- “A Viral video that appeared to show Obama calling Trump a ‘dips—’ shows a disturbing new trend called ‘deepfakes’”, Kaylee Fagan, Business Insider, 4/17/18
- “Here Come the Fake Videos, Too,” Kevin Roose, New York Times, 3/4/18