When a Bot Answers Your Get Out the Vote Call

One of the hazards of making political calls in 2020 — you might wind up talking to a bot. I got this one the other day while making calls for Biden-Harris. 

The voice on the other end of the line explains “I’ve really been hoping to hear from you guys” except he’s about to get married in 10 minutes — but he still wants to talk. The bot then tries to keep the conversation going with, taking frequent breaks to argue with the best man about who has the ring and which of them had been drinking too much (or not enough) to be ready for the ceremony.

I still wasn’t sure when I got off the phone whether I was really talking to a crazy groom who sort of wanted to talk politics, despite being just a few minutes away from the altar. (I figured if he was a real person, I’d better let him go anyway).

I sympathize with the impulse to frustrate telemarketers. Hate to think of being what I’m doing as a volunteer as falling into that category (I’m trying to save Democracy, dammit!) but not everyone sees it that way.

So now in addition to dealing with getting hung up on and dealing with angry Trumpkins, you need to be prepared to take the Turing Test once a night or so.

Fortunately, there are still some real people out there whom you can have a real conversation with.

The other bot I spoke with had a heavy Eastern European accent and kept interrupting to yell at his children before coming back to the phone. That pattern of frequent interruptions to talk with some fictional companion might be one giveaway. It’s the bot’s strategy to waste more of your time without having to spend as many computer cycles simulating conversation. 

I’d hate to mistake a real person for a bot, but I guess my strategy going forward will be to say, “I’ll try to call back at a better time” and hang up if I suspect I’m being punked.  

Author: David F. Carr

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