BERT BRAUTIGAM IS sick of having conversations with his devices. Like many of us, Brautigam, who works for the design firm Ziba, uses voice assistants like Google’s phone AI or Amazon’s Alexa. The theory is that voice commands make life more convenient.
But these assistants are scripted to emulate everyday conversation. And everyday conversation is filled with little pauses and filler words, the “phatic” spackle of social interactions. That’s why Alexa says things like “Sorry, I’m not sure about that,” or Siri says “OK, here’s what I found …” when it delivers search results. It’s how humans talk. But when a bot does it, the chitchat clogs up the flow of command-and-action.
It is gradually driving Brautigam nuts—not just the bots’ tics, but the ratiocinations he has to go through to make them do, well, anything.