Robot Telemarketer Denies Being a Robot

This is one of the creepiest things I’ve ever heard, and really puts the trend toward transhumanism in a startling spotlight.  Time Washington Bureau Chief Michael Scherer recently received a phone call from an apparently charming woman trying to sell him health insurance.  As he asked a number of questions, he started receiving inconsistent answers which led him to believe he may be speaking to an artificial intelligence.  As he pressured the telemarketer, it became clear that she was a robot.  However, upon direct questioning, the robot telemarketer denies being a robot.

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Michael called the number back to press the issue, as did a number of others. Here are a few recordings of the disturbing exchanges.

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The “woman” identifies herself as Samantha West.

From the Time report:

If you want, you can call her too. Her number is (484) 589-5611. This number, if you Google it, is the subject of much discussion online as other recipients of Samantha West calls complain on chat boards about the mysteriously persistent lady who keeps calling them. “A friendly sounded woman on the other end claimed I requested health insurance information,” writes find here. “She doggedly refused to deviate from her script.”

After answering her questions, one TIME reporter was transferred to an actual human who did not promptly end the call, as others had when asked about Samantha. Asked for the company’s website, the real human on the other end of the line said it was, the website of a Ft. Lauderdale company. “We’re here to help. . . because we care,” is the company motto on its homepage. A TIME reporter called the company directly, identified himself and said TIME was doing a story about the robot who calls people on the company’s behalf. “We don’t use robot calls, sir,” said the person who answered the phone, before promptly hanging up the phone.

When the number was called a second time, a real live employee of Premier Health Plans Inc., who gave his name as Bruce Martin, answered the phone. He said he was not sure if Samantha West’s phone number, mentioned above, was one of the company’s numbers. “First of all, we use TV, we use radio, we use Internet,” said Martin. He described the company as selling life insurance, health insurance and dental insurance. He asked that TIME publish the name of his company, the website and phone number in the article. “If you are going to publish this in the magazine, I’d like to get something out of it,” he said. The TIME reporter agreed to do just that.

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I suspect this is a trend that will only get more complicated as we enter an age where robots are not only doing the work once relegated to mere mortals, but with more sophisticated technology that allows the AI to deny its own nature, many ethical quandaries are likely to arise.  Could this ultimately lead to The Artilect War as predicted by Dr. Prof. Hugo de Garis?  (For more on the Artilect War, click here:  my blog

Robot Telemarketer Denies Being a Robot