Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Machines Acting Like People

I had a phone call from my health insurance company this week, United Health Care.  I was supposed to call back.

I thought it was about a prescription or something, so I phoned.  The computer answering my call figured out who I was from my phone number.  Then it proceeded to remind me that women my age should have a mammogram every one to two years and that I need to get one.  (They know how old I am.  They know a frightening amount about me.)  Then it actually asked me if I was scheduling one!  My little rebellious self thought, "What will it say if I say 'no?'" but I decided to say 'yes' so it would shut up and finish the call.  Then it asked me when!  Nervy computer!  It wanted to know if I was going to make the appointment today, tomorrow, this week, or this month.  I told it tomorrow, but I guess I lied.  I was busy today and didn't do it.

Hubby, of course, suggested I go to the UHC website and look for a place to opt out of their automated health phone calls.  Sounds like a good idea to me!  I didn't do that yet, either, though.

I am reading a humorous book on my Kindle, a Sci-Fi comedy called Hal Spacejock.  Hal is like a Han Solo, but without brains, but I am growing very fond of his robot friend, Clunk.  Clunk is the real hero of the book, pulling Hal out of a series of bonehead scrapes.

Here's something from this funny futuristic book that reminds me of my automated phone call.  A character in the book is going into his apartment building.  The scanner on the door reads his retina, fingerprint, and his body mass.  It then offers him a gym membership for only 99 credits a month!  It doesn't want to let him into his own apartment complex until he signs up.  It points out that he's been gaining weight...he finally has his thug robot (not the hero) bash the door down.

We're headed there, aren't we?

I try to embrace change as much as I can, and I enjoy technology.  But please, who wants to have a conversation with a machine, at least not until the machine is as cool as Clunk? 

Mmm, but didn't I also admit in my notes on Design-A-Knit Friday that I actually like "knit from screen," where the software tracks your position in the knitting and the automated voice tells you when to increase and decrease? 


  1. Diana, you hit the nail on the head there. There's a time and place for machines, and others that require a more personal touch. My healthcare provider simply sends me a letter reminding me of my upcoming mammo, and I can choose to ignore the letter or not. I suppose UHC's idea is that having a computer make the calls is a way of saving money (for them, not you--no postage, no salary), but having it ask all those personal questions crosses a line. Of course, you could simply have hung up. ;-)

    In this day and age of social networking, email, texting and blogs (sorry!), we're losing touch with how to interact with real people! Ever notice how hard it is to get a live person when you call some place of business, including your own doctor's office?

  2. I have to say, there is nothing "social" in most social networking. Right on Chava!

  3. Sorry, but have to be the devil's advocate. My doctor reminded me to get my mammogram last year at a checkup, and it found breast cancer. I would not have thought of going then without that reminder. I also hate computerized phone calls, but the content of this one really could save lives. Mammograms do work and it's so important to get them. Be grateful for reminders.

  4. My post was supposed to be funny, or at least ironic...sigh.