Cross-post (37)

By: Marc Weidenbaum
February 25, 2021

OK, Giggle
Or the three-second Groundhog Day

Voice AI mini-nightmares are common enough to be generic, yet each can be a marvel when experienced firsthand. I was driving, using Google Maps to advise me where to go. (I say “advise” because Google Maps seems to think unprotected left turns are a breeze.) Then this happened:

While driving, I had an audiobook playing. At some point, the voice actor / narrator said someone giggled. That was the word: “giggle.” For whatever reason (can’t imagine why), the voice AI in the phone experienced this word as a trigger, paused the audiobook, and asked me what I wanted help with. The AI eventually got the clue that I hadn’t summoned it, and the phone returned to the audiobook. One great thing about this system is when the audiobook came back, it had backed up a bit. Except (yeah, you see this coming, ’cause you’re smarter than the AI) what happened was:

It had rewound, so to speak, to just prior to word “giggle” so the whole thing repeated: The AI thought it was a call to attention, asked how it could make my life easier, and then I waited. Then it got the hint and the audiobook started all over: giggle, prompt, silence, repeat.

giggle, prompt, silence, rewind
giggle, prompt, silence, rewind
giggle, prompt, silence, rewind
giggle, prompt, silence, rewind
giggle, prompt, silence, rewind
giggle, prompt, silence, rewind
giggle, prompt, silence …

Ok, maybe not that many times.

I kept thinking: maybe at some point it’ll rewind a little less far, and this won’t happen. Nope. So, I got, yeah, a tad frustrated. I took slow, deep breaths. I reflected on the glories of our age. I pondered Roko’s Basilisk. And then I said, angrily, “I can’t stand this.” And then Google Maps said it could help. Having misheard (mis-machine-listened-to, or is it machined-listen?) the word “stand,” it offered to reroute me to a dry cleaner that could deal with the “stain” I had mentioned.

At least when the audiobook started up again, somehow it had jumped past the giggle, so I was out of that three-second Groundhog Day. As for me, I’m still learning to laugh at the situation.


Marc’s original post on Disquiet: OK, Giggle
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