The war on robots guilty of murdering conversation
Voice-activated devices are the newish big thing. If you make a telephone call to a railway company or some large organisation, you are likely to find yourself in a dialogue with some female robot voice whose patient tone reveals that she has been programmed to assume you are an idiot. And now there are so-called intelligent assistants, supposed to do your bidding. The BBC has even launched a radio drama that allows listeners to influence the plot by speaking through their Amazon Echo.
I have just written the screenplay for a major feature film, whose plot is based around this voice-based technology. It is called Murder on the Pisa Express and it features a number of very big stars.
A murdered man is found in the corridor of an express train heading for Pisa. Who is he and why has he been killed? By sheer chance, a Belgian detective is on the train. He had meant to catch the Orient Express but there was a mix-up when he asked the intelligent assistant on his smartphone to get a ticket. (The misunderstanding may have been caused by his Belgian accent or because his voice was muffled by his preposterous moustache.)
The detective concludes that the murder victim had actually tried to order a pizza, but when he got the Pisa ticket instead he decided to get away from it all. There are many suspects; all the passengers on the train have had a run-in with new technology which put them in a murderous mood. Was it the suave millionaire who had tried to explain to the automated BT helpline what his technical problem was? Or the glamorous socialite who has tickets in her handbag for Blade Runner at five different cinema complexes?
Suspicion quickly falls on a femme fatale named Alexa. The detective believes she hears voices in her head telling her to do things. She could not disobey instructions to commit a murder. When questioned, all she will say is: “A chance of rain today. Better take your umbrella.”
I worry about morale at the Office for National Statistics. How will they be feeling as they turn up for work this Monday morning? They may well jab the lift button a little more forcefully than usual and slap the folders down on their desks. They have just released a report saying that the British are just a little bit happier than a year ago. Average happiness levels are 7.52 out of 10, compared with 7.46 in the previous year. I wonder if statisticians were included in their sample.
At ONS headquarters, the news of this slight rise in happiness levels could well be considered “a bit of a downer”, to apply the technical term. After all, statistics are supposed to alarm us: look out, the growth of the prison population is getting out of hand; wake up, the number of accidents with deckchairs shows no sign of improvement; you’re not going to like this new data about deaths from liver disease.
Senior tabulators at the ONS will walk moodily over to the window of the office, observe the people hurrying along the pavement and mutter. “Look at them. Not a care in the world. On average, of course.” Then one of them will say: “This is a wake-up call. We must get a move on with that census of the rat population in UK sewers.”
Sheep invariably cut me dead. They have a way of looking through me and backing away. My troubl trouble is, I’m just not famous. A Cambr Cambridge University study has reveal revealed that sheep can recognise faces, but, in the experiments to back this up up, it turns out that they were able to iden identify pictures of Fiona Bruce, Barack Obama and Emma Watson. So it seem seems they are simply mad about celebr celebrities. If sheep had their way, there w would always be flocks of them outsid outside film premieres, baa-ing at the stars and bleating for selfies.
A After years of watching sheepdog tria trials on television, I have con concluded that sheep are pa particularly disdainful of Border Co Collies. They don’t wish to be ass associated with them and, when on one approaches, they withdraw hau haughtily without looking back. That sheepdog is not herding, it is being shunned. Of course, it would be differe different if it were a famous dog, like Lassie Lassie.