Sunday, May 31, 2009

To Go Where No One is Listening, Press Four

This week, I saw the new Star Trek movie and I have to say, I loved it.

I always love the way sci-fi futures solve all the little problems that vex us today with nifty neat technology. There aren’t any computers in the world of Star Trek that have to be taken back to the Geek Squad because some virus came through on an email promising to cure acne, make me lose ten pounds a night until I’m fit, and depositing an ungodly amount of money in my long forgotten Irish bank account. None of the cars or machines in that sci-fi world ever needs an oil change, only major repairs because some Romulan shot at them with highly advanced weaponry. And yet with all the high tech beaming and phasers, they haven’t lost the human touch. The communication between ships is still handled by a person, as versus a phone tree.

This is probably because at some point, the future techies installed a phone tree, thinking to cut into the Federation overhead by reducing demand for translators/communication officers to act as receptionists on board. I can just see how this would have played out:

“Hello, you have reached the communications branch of the starship Enterprise, NCC-1701. Please listen carefully, as our options have changed. If you require a standard rescue from a planet, star base or other such stationary locale, press 1. If you have a diplomatic request and require additional expertise such as a science, engineer or medical officer, press 2. If you are hostile or feel your planet’s issue is critical and cannot wait for normal diplomatic channels, press zero."

How many times did a direct photon get shot at the bridge, vaporizing the skeleton crew of loyal red shirted ensigns aboard for offering those sorts of choices?

Then I imagine, the techies tried voice recognition software. Having never had much luck with voice activated commands at my bank’s phone auto teller, I can just see the Enterprise switch board overloading as it tried to decipher Klingon suggestions that the whole Federation deserves Hell for creating such an infernal contraption. This would be after the sixth attempt to say, “The Federation is nothing but a collective of data gathering flunkies with Technicolor uniforms.” And having the computer voice recognition software translate it as, “You said you would like an Orion slave girl, a romulan ozal twist and three tribbles for Christmas. Is that correct?”

I know because my bank uses a phone tree and I’ve discovered over time that if I speak with my voice half an octave lower, like I’m a man, the machine understands. The moment I switch to my actual range, the phone tree begins to get confused. I’ve also found that accents increase the likelihood of me getting through to the bank’s version of Lt. Uhura much faster, so I’ve adopted a lt. Chekov approach. “I vould like to make a transfer from my savings account. Four thousand dollars, vwease.”

The machine is convinced I’d like to order checks with Dalmatians on them.
So I try Montgomery Scott. “I be needin a transfer.”

And the infernal contraption declares “For security purposes, we cannot process your request.”
After twenty minutes of attempting to get a real person or a transfer of funds, I’m cursing at the darn thing. I’d pull a Captain Kirk mood here, but there’s no one to punch. I just get to suffer because of the overuse and under impressive performance of technology.

“Damn machines.” I muttered, and then I realized, I’m turning into Bones.


Anonymous said...

This one merited a link on my Facebook page. -Agnes :-)

MightyMom said...


I was calling information for a number yesterday....the voice recognition machine gave up on me quite quickly ...course that might have been because I'd let my 2 year talk to them!!


yes, I'm waaaaaay bad about doing things like that! you should HEAR what I do to telemarketers.....

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