A spark of AI

My doctor decided that I have to do another heart test.

I went with his reference to the Heart Institute, hoping to schedule the test.

I approached the clerk at the reception and told her that I have a reference from my doctor.

“We don’t schedule tests”, she told me. “You should phone the call center.”

I found a free chair nearby, sat there and phoned the call center. After going through several stages with the bot, I had a woman on the line. I told her what test was required.

“No”, she said. “I can’t schedule this test for you. You can only schedule it directly in the institute.”

“Well”, I told her, “In the institute they said that I must call you.”

I crossed the corridor and approached the clerk at the reception.

“The call center says that only you can schedule the test”, I told her. She tried to deny that, so I let her talk with the woman on the phone.

“Well”, she told me, “why didn’t you tell me what kind of test you need? It is true that this test can only be scheduled directly”.

She scheduled the test for next Wednesday.

All this was daily practice of all human bureaucracy, not something worth writing about. But there was a twist in the plot that sounded to me like the harbinger of a new period.

We are all excited about how machines are acquiring artificial intelligence that allows them to emulate human reasoning and behavior.

Well, as I called the call center, the first response from the bot was to say that “we are sorry for the inconvenience but the system is very busy right now and response time is unusually long. Please try to schedule through the site.”Heart and AI brain

As I ignored this “try with another” initial response and filled my details anyway, the response was immediate, with no delay at all.

I really appreciated how the bot was adopting the intelligent methods of our human brothers and sisters, making me feel at home.

(Haifa, July 2018)

Advertisements

It is so wired… wrongly wired

Only in Israel: Personally Delivered SMS – straight from the Shabak

At first glance it looked like a foolish error – or the now so common tech firms’ scam.

Iris received a short SMS from Bezeq, informing that her time of reduced pay for fast internet connection will soon be over, and that, starting October 13, she will pay 120.97 shekel monthly.

sms from bezek - renewal

Misdirected SMS

The first question that came to her mind was, of course, for how long she was already paying for Bezeq “services” without her knowledge, as she never even requested their service to connect to the net? So she immediately called Bezeq and they checked her id number, and checked her telephone number, and checked my id number and my telephone number, and promised that they don’t hold these numbers in their databases and never charged us anything.

Somewhat relieved, Iris reread the short note carefully and noticed that the telephone number of the client that was mentioned there was not her number… But that number seemed familiar; it was the number of a comrade from Tel Aviv.

Iris called the comrade and it came out that she was connected through Bezeq, and that her special agreement was really due to expire sometime soon. She thanked Iris for informing her that she should take care before her monthly pay will be automatically hiked.

Scrolling up in the same SMS application, Iris found that she also received a message from Bezeq in March, concerning the expected visit of a technician. The comrade from Tel Aviv recalled that she really applied for the technician to come and was disappointed with Bezeq that promised to send her a message but their message never arrived…

Simple explanation

Well, you might think that the numbers are somewhat similar and it could be a simple typo, but they are not similar in any way. They differ by almost all digits… And Iris’s number was never registered in Bezeq’s database anyway, so there is no way that Bezeq could have made this mistake.

But Bezeq is only the first station on the SMS’s Via Dolorosa. Before it could land in the comrade’s phone it had to pass by the Shabak’s office and have a short chat with a Tonton Macoute wearing black glasses. After it explains itself and proves its innocence and good intentions, the SMS is kicked out and rolls all the way down to its original destination… or to another comrade, as there are so few Jewish leftists and they all look the same.

Retrospective view

This wired experience reminded us of the eighties and nineties of the previous century…

It was not rare up then to have your phone ringing, or raise the phone’s receiver to make a call, and hear a conversation by some comrades in other towns around the country, who thought they were speaking just between themselves. We would then curse the Shabak for using such old leaky wires in their wiretapping centers.

On a second thought, the new SMS misdirection errors may be just the teething problems of a new Artificial Intelligence start-up that was hired to catch the data balls in the air and throw them on in almost real-time. We really shouldn’t be angry with the novice techies for not yet recognizing all the old comrades by their names and phone numbers.

Message from the Shabak Caricature