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Skythologies: Is my Call Center Agent human?

My suspicions were right. In recent developments, Dr. Zombie's, er, zombies were exterminated by his undead wife by "clicking" yes on the query button asking if the zombie program would be terminated. AI--not American Idol, but artificial intelligence at work. Artificial neural networks (ANN), to be exact.

In my reimaginations of Dr. Zombie (and his minions), I picture him as an extraodinarily intelligent combination of man and machine. His zombies are actually embedded with computer programs that simulate a human being's movements, and Bluetooth-enabled too to enable him to command them within a specific radius. Plus decaying flesh of course, the works. His Nutribun top contains a microprocessor that gathers data as he receives it--Darna's punches, body moves and plasma emissions--learns them, formulates counterattacks, implements them, gets data and builds up on previous learnings. He is virtually indestructible, and only he can end the program and destroy himself.

Dr. Zombie's embedded program to counter Darna's punch by increasing his counterattack a hundredfold would look as such, with a subprogram invoked elsewhere to regenerate any part that she has damaged. This program will repeat itself if Darna is still alive and will end when our superheroine is dead:

DO LOOP (Darna = Alive)
          IF bodypart = damaged
                    GOTO regenerate_damaged_Zombie_part
          END IF
          Measure Darna's punch P
          P (Zombie) = P (Darna) * 100
          Attack
END LOOP
This is the essence of artificial neural networks--get data, learn, implement--ideally an endless cycle for improvement, or an end to itself when Dr. Zombie's opponent is beaten to pulp.

This is also similar to how our brain works. A toddler learns a specific word such as "star" and blurts it out barely recognizable. Years pass and we hear the toddler, now a grown-up, recite "star" in different accents, languages and meanings.

I won't go into the intricacies of artificial neural networks here, but unlike ordinary computer programs which run from the top down, ANN's are recursive until the result is perfected. Artificial neurons process these information, bits of programs connected together by a string of commands for complex applications.

The human nervous system has about 100 billion neurons (brain cells) which interconnect and carry information that has been passed through nature and nurture. An ant's nervous system has 20,000. Despite advances in computer science, artificial neural networks have most likely 1,000 artificial neurons maximum. Still a long way to go, but we already see examples all the time.

Bar code scanners in groceries and digital office bundy clocks are the most familiar example I can think of. These scanners "learn" the price of the item or identity of the person through a central database where the information is stored. When an item is scanned or a person flicks his ID into the reader, the appropriate action is taken--charge the price, or let the person in. There are situations when the bar codes are distorted or faded, but the information can still be read--ANN working double-time.

The security industry takes advantage of ANN by teaching the computer to learn, for example, a person's jawline, iris structure, and thumbprint--collectively known as biometrics. I had some of my biometrics stored in my previous company ID. Changes in the person's biometrics won't impact the database, say, surgery, because the computer can forecast these changes from the person's original data, except of course in the most extreme of circumstances.

Voice typing, one of Windows XP's utilities, is also a fine example. You teach the computer to recognize your voice using pre-selected words in a very quiet setting, which it stores in the database, and types words you speak in, say, MS Word through a microphone. Nifty, but far from perfect still.

So, is the Call Center Agent you spoke to really a human being? Customer service is one of the areas where ANN is tapped, storing in company databases previous customer profiles, requests and feedback. Already, ANN has been successful in process engineering (I take them for breakfast), quality control, financial forecasting and intelligent searching (banner ads, suggested search words and Google AdSense).

Except for the voice-recording "press 1 for directory assistance", and not in a few years from now, yes, you're still speaking to a warm-bodied human agent.

If you do get nervous, press 0 to talk to a human customer service representative.

Next on Skythologies: How to Make Your Own Zombie, and next next, some stuff about Electrostatic Discharge (ESD).

“Skythologies: Is my Call Center Agent human?”

  1. Anonymous REYNOLD B. LUMIDAO Says:

    ang galing