One of the biggest surprises of our ‘no-fault’ insured incidents was the truly alarmingly realistic nature of automated and artificially-intelligent (AI) follow-up voice-calls I received as a result of having three vehicles written off . Apart from the cheerily introduced ‘Hello Mr Paterson, how’re you doing today. It’s Adam here from your Accident Thingummy Something Incomprehensible Or Other, just checking everything’s going OK with your recent accident claim? And have you by any chance broken your neck in the accident?’ (They didn’t usually say the last bit – despite it being the underlying reason for their unsolicited concern – I just added it for comedic effect, OK?)
One poor human correspondent became quite perturbed when I accused her of being an ambulance-chaser, but her initial protestation wilted under the onslaught of my by-now well-rehearsed references to GDPR; privacy breaches; incessant, intrusive and unsolicited phone calls; my unwarranted inclusion in unauthorised and therefore compromised databases; EU regulations (I made that bit up) and the ultimate threat of writing to my MP, politically impotent though they may be.
During one such conversation, Poor Friendly Ben quickly gleaned that I had no recurring neck or whiplash injuries; wasn’t experiencing any difficulties with concentration, breathing or sleeping and in fact WASN’T EVEN IN THE BLOODY CAR at the time of the accident. As a result, his heartfelt interest evaporated like a cloud of exhaled vape and the call was rapidly concluded, if not simply cut-off. Humans 1: Concerned Accident Thingummy Whatsits 0.
And those were just the actual human calls. On other occasions, I must have been in conversation with what I believed to be a fellow homo-sapien for almost two minutes, as they introduced themselves by name and proceeded to ask pertinent questions about the accident, even responding effectively to my replies. As my discussion with ‘Abigail’ proceeded however, I began to detect an unnatural delay in the conversational flow, promptly followed by a repetition of the same question, where Abigail’s Artificial Intelligence couldn’t quite keep up the pace. The pauses and repetition became more pronounced as I began to throw in what were clearly non-standard and unprogrammed questions, the most damning of which – “Are you a real person?” – was clearly well beyond the programmers initial brief.
And as a result of this slowly dawning realisation, the verbal abuse began.
I hadn’t realised how deeply enervating and cathartic it can be to simply hurl inappropriate language down a telephone line at a robot. One thing remains reassuring: no matter how relentless and invasive the march of Artificial Intelligence becomes, we currently remain in charge. Poor Abigail just couldn’t process my tirade of insults and resorted to simply repeating the last question loaded in her RAM, almost ad infinitum – or at least until the moment I decided to invoke the ultimate deterrent and simply put the phone down. Apart from a particularly unreasonable and exasperating client in my early career, I don’t think I’d ever hung up on a phone conversation before. And now, come to think of it, both episodes were strangely and effervescently uplifting. Humans 1: Robots (including the client): 0.
Finally, a compassionate passing Millennial showed me the ‘Block Caller’ button on my phone and my life changed forever. Result.