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IBM Watson To Replace Salespeople and Cold-Callers 316

An anonymous reader writes "After conquering Jeopardy! and making inroads into the diagnosis of medical maladies, IBM's next application for Watson is improving sales and customer support. Companies will be able to simply fill Watson (or rather, DeepQA) with domain-specific information about products and services, and sit back as it uses its natural language processing skills to answer the queries of potential customers. The potential benefits are huge. Watson could either augment existing sales and support teams, or replace them entirely. Also, in a beautiful and self-fulfilling twist, the first application of this re-purposed Watson will be be internally, at IBM, to help sell more IBM Watsons to other companies."
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IBM Watson To Replace Salespeople and Cold-Callers

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  • Jobs killer (Score:4, Interesting)

    by jaymzter ( 452402 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @06:10PM (#36676232) Homepage

    Mark my words, this will kill the economy, just like ATMs did.

    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward

      They make it sound like Watson's going to be answering the phone. But speech recognition still isn't dear aunt, let's set so double the killer delete select all.
      Watson processes written language.

      • They make it sound like Watson's going to be answering the phone. But speech recognition still isn't dear aunt, let's set so double the killer delete select all. Watson processes written language.

        from TFA - You might be a little terrified the first time you pick up your phone to hear dulcet but unmistakably-computerized tones of Watson saying “Hello, can I interest you in cheap home insurance?”

        The worst thing about speech recognition software in Europe such as what the Odeon uses, is that you have to put on a forced American accent if you want to stand a chance of even remotely being understood, especially if your from Scotland.

        • by h4rr4r ( 612664 )

          If you are in the US you must speak as though you are in the middle of the country. These things do not work on an American accent, only on one from a specific part of the country.

          • If you are in the US you must speak as though you are in the middle of the country. These things do not work on an American accent, only on one from a specific part of the country.

            North Midland Dialect, specifically. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midland_American_English#.28North.29_Midland [wikipedia.org]

            There is no "American" accent, but television personalities usually adopt a north midland accent, so that's what foreigners hear often.

            • by AK Marc ( 707885 )
              I call bullshit on that being a dialect. The TV accent is "natural" to those in areas of great influx. There is a distinct Alaskan accent for those who are outside Anchorage, Juneau, military bases, and oil fields. However, in areas where the number of migrants exceed the number of natives, the accent of those brought up there approximates the TV accent. The same is true in places with accents. Fort Worth has an accent. And has more natives and less influx of migrants. However, Dallas, not far away,
          • These things do not work on an American accent, only on one from a specific part of the country.

            I'll call bullshit. I work daily with a voice recognition system integrated with Word and MS-SQL to process medical transcription. (Not by choice, mind you, but it's all there is in this field. Oh, and patents. Lots of patents.) It seems to do well with a good variety of accents, many of them ESL speakers with funny accents and mispronunciations. Trust me, it all still needs an editor to perfect the output, but i

        • or I think that's what it's called. It means every syllable is one beat. That makes it easy to create computer voices that sound convincing, especially if you're hard of hearing (like a lot of people in their 50s, who are the only ones that have money in our greying economy). Plus they're gradually solving this problem anyway. It comes down to processing power more than anything else, and they're not far off.
        • Speech recognition is nowhere near perfect enough to make this replace anyone.

          You can train a machine to recognize a person and/or dialect (without accent), but never to be perfect. I do believe that the Indian guy answering the phone will be able to type this into a terminal and get reasonable answers (very much like it did with jeopardy), and that might streamline the process, leading to less need for employees.

    • by Meshach ( 578918 )

      Mark my words, this will kill the economy, just like ATMs did.

      ATM's became popular because for simple transactions it is quicker to go through a machine then to talk to a real person. For complex sales interactions I cannot see some computer trying to guess what I am thinking replacing a real live sales person / engineer. The process for finding solutions that are right for my situation is too complex.

      • Mark my words, this will kill the economy, just like ATMs did.

        ATM's became popular because for simple transactions it is quicker to go through a machine then to talk to a real person. For complex sales interactions I cannot see some computer trying to guess what I am thinking replacing a real live sales person / engineer. The process for finding solutions that are right for my situation is too complex.

        Also, Watson will never be able to properly replace someone in retention (the people you talk to if you sound like you're going to cancel your cable subscription). These people don't work from a script (even if they do have a playbook).

        • Depends on the company. My former mobile phone company's retention team definitely had a script. Offer x, offer y, give up. I spoke to them a couple of times, and it was the same. With a bit more intelligence, they'd analyse my usage and work out what they could offer for my usage pattern and still make a profit.
      • by geekoid ( 135745 )

        "The process for finding solutions that are right for my situation is too complex."
        well, aren't you special. You and you're too complex problems.

        • If you keep up with that "you're-when-you-mean-your" thing, you're bound to confuse Watson. It might even suggest you get Windows 7 preloaded.

      • ATMs became popular because they fired most of the tellers and the line is 30 minutes long and you have to fill out paperwork for a basic deposit and many banks charge you to talk to the teller on top of all that. ATMs still suck. Especially the Bank of America ones. Give me back tellers and envelopes over some B.S. machine that won't take the checks I am trying to deposit because it can't read them.
        • It still amazes me that there are bank-specific ATMs. Here in Portugal an ATM is an ATM, they are all controlled by an organization created by a consortium of all the banks, and they work with all banks.

          Seems to me a much cleaner solution, especially for the clients.

          • It's done because it becomes an additional revenue stream for the banks. If you use someone else's ATM, your bank will charge you a fee on top of the ATM fee the machine charges for the transaction.

        • You need to fill out paperwork to make a basic deposit? And get charged extra on top of that? You probably need to change your bank.

          In my bank, I just go to the teller, hand over the cash/check and my debit card, and tell them to put it into my account - and get a receipt one minute later. And yes, this is one of the "big four" in USA.

      • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @06:58PM (#36676768)
        ...(because you cost too much to maintain) or you'll adapt to their systems. And for Pete's sake, stop trotting out that overused ATM bit. It's called an EXAMPLE. It's how you illustrate a broad trend. ATMs are one of many, many ways that people are lost jobs to automation. There's lots more examples. My favorite is the sleeping bag factory that cranked out 1 million + bags/yr with just 300 employees. Then there's all the small craft businesses (like closet makers) that used to be highly specialized and now are being replaced by a few expert systems.

        I don't know if you're old enough to remember, but back in the 80s were promised expert systems that would do these things and free us up for leisure time. Trouble is, instead of leisure time we're getting pink slips and a one way ticket to the gutter we're schedule to die in. Thing is, I've yet to hear a compelling solution to the problem of automation that doesn't just boil down to 1) Anyone w/o jobs dies of starvation or 2) Some form of socialism. What I do hear a lot of is attempts to ignore / downplay the problem. Remember Biotech? Where are the jobs? And even if we had them, how the hell would anyone get trained for them when we're cutting back on education budgets left and right?
        • Product and service quality always goes down when customers can be arbitrarily declared as "too much to maintain".

          What you're suggesting is a function of unchecked business power, versus a balance between employer and employee. Start giving businesses the same grief they dish out, and perhaps they might learn the error of their ways.

          • What kind of grief can you possibly give them? You're obviously well educated (by American Standards) and have a highly critical mind. The vast majority of people lack your education & critical thinking skills. Very few people are like that. Most base decisions on their 'gut', meaning their emotions. Advertising will play on those emotions and drown out any objections they have. A recent study shows that a 3 week advertising blitz could change 51% of the public's opinion on ANYTHING.

            I guess my point
        • by ultranova ( 717540 ) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @01:33AM (#36679774)
          Thing is, I've yet to hear a compelling solution to the problem of automation that doesn't just boil down to 1) Anyone w/o jobs dies of starvation or 2) Some form of socialism.

          That's because there isn't any. Either the society takes care of the weak, which is socialism, or it doesn't, in which case they die. And since power tends to accumulate - the more you have the easier it is to get yet more - almost all are weak.

          Also, I find it interesting that a society that's so big on democracy - distribution of political power to everyone - is nonetheless perfectly okay with the concentration of economic power into just a few hands. It seems your local robber barons certainly used Cold War effectively.

      • For complex sales interactions I cannot see some computer trying to guess what I am thinking replacing a real live sales person / engineer.

        Do you believe it is normal to be thinking replacing a real live sales person / engineer?

    • Re:Jobs killer (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Billly Gates ( 198444 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @06:17PM (#36676334) Journal

      You know these sales and marketing people were all behind the outsourcing and devaluing I.T. jobs because the sales and marketing people made money, not computer geeks. As a testament to their success they convinced accountants to label them as "profit centers" while I.T. was labeled a "cost center". Guess which one the executives choose to fund more of vs cutting the other?

      Now these same people are being outsourced and it is genius.

      • so... now the IT folks will be profit centers because they are supporting Watson!

      • Re:Jobs killer (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Riceballsan ( 816702 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @06:26PM (#36676436)
        Twice as awesome, to be replaced by machines, that will have to be supported by IT.
        • by EdIII ( 1114411 )

          I honestly wonder if will see the beginnings of the Matrix in our lifetime.

          If Watson really is that good that it can replace a customer service agent, then it will only be a matter of decades before technology converges and we have robotic servants similar to the Bicentennial Man or I, Robot.

          This would be good for Japan I think, but then if we are all serviced by robots, and the robots service the robots for repairs and maintenance, and robots are designing other robots.... than just what are the humans her

          • Getting close to it. Watson is sorta like HAL, but not enough to pass the Turing test...yet. Unlike most of our computer systems, Watson figures out what's optimal on it's own. This is truly non-sentient AI. But once we have something like Watson, Watson 2.0, or HAL like, that's when I think the "Theory of Everything" will be discovered. Not by man, but by man's machine.

    • by homer_s ( 799572 )
      Nah, it was electricity that killed jobs. And not to mention, the wheel.
    • Re:Jobs killer (Score:5, Insightful)

      by CRCulver ( 715279 ) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @06:38PM (#36676562) Homepage
      When automation reduced industrial jobs, people could move into the service economy. But now automation is reducing service economy jobs. Where will they move to? While there's always some room for innovation, it's not impossible that we may reach a point where the majority of unemployed people simply cannot "move somewhere else".
      • I thought about your question for a moment, then I realized that I too need a copy of Watson running on my PC five years from now. Assuming I have the raw computing resources for it, i too can outsource my job.

        Two can play this game. Soon, my Watson will be calling your Watson for support and collaboration. Not sure if that's a good idea, but...

      • Well ultimately, if automation replaces all human functions, we'll not need to work. The reason we need to work is so that we can have the things in life that we need to survive and want to be happy. Get it to the point machines can do all that, and humans can just relax.

        That's a rather long way away though. Still a whole lot machines can't do, and even in the things they can do, humans have to mind after them.

        But ultimately, it is not a problem. A fully automated economy might be the death of capitalism, b

        • Re:Jobs killer (Score:5, Insightful)

          by Overzeetop ( 214511 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @07:34PM (#36677060) Journal

          No, that will never be the case. Just as they predicted that computers would make for a 10-20 hour workweek.

          You see, we currently pay people in return for their time. $40,000 (or $80k, or $120k) buys you a person for a year. Now, whether they do 40 hours of work a week to produce TPS reports, or you give them a computer so they can produce the equivalent of 80 hours worth of TPS reports in a week, the market is for a week of time. Business owners understand this, and their income is based on then number of TPS reports.

          Let's say you've got 100 employees each making 10 TPS reports a week. Lets assume you are "right-sized" and there is only a market for 1000TPS reports in a week. Now you buy a Watson that can produce 100 TPS reports per person employed. Would you keep everybody on and let them work 4 hours a week, or would you fire 90 employees, keep the ten you need, pay the cost of Watson* with the savings in payroll, and pocket the extra?

          That's exactly what has happened over the past 40 years. We are getting more efficient, but it's not leading to shorter weeks - it's leading to higher unemployment, and higher unemployability. As things get more complex, fewer humans have the mental capacity to operate the machines of business efficiently.

          The more machines do, the "expendable" end of the human capability bell curve moves further to the right.

          *note: if at all possible, IBM will charge for Watson the annual sum of about 85 employees, including maintenance and upgrades, for licensing.

          • Re:Jobs killer (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Telvin_3d ( 855514 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @08:01PM (#36677364)

            No, that will never be the case. Just as they predicted that computers would make for a 10-20 hour workweek... We are getting more efficient, but it's not leading to shorter weeks

            A large part of this is a failure to adequately account for human nature, consumer culture and changes in wealth distribution. Back in the 60s and 70s and 80s when each new revolution in automation hit all the magazines and news programs were full of news that, since this wold double our productivity, in another decade everyone would have to work half as much.

            And it's true. As a society we could provide everyone from top to bottom with an 60's upper-middleclass lifestyle for only a day or two of work each week. Why didn't this happen? First, it relies on the idea that there is some fixed goal that everyone is working towards. That once everyone has filled their checklist of stuff they are done. Instead, there is always more stuff being made and marketed. Consumer culture is as much a moving target as productivity is. The supply expands to fill the available capital.

            More importantly, the people who enjoyed increased productivity are very rarely the people who benefit from it. If a factory doubles its output the owners don't double wages. It is the same across every industry. Word processing and e-mail didn't free up time for office workers. It just spelled the end of their secretaries.

            This is reflected in the real wages and income distribution of the last 40 years or so. Adjusted for inflation, real wages have actually fallen by about ten percent since the 60s. We are being paid less for higher efficiency. At one point the top 1% of the population received roughly 15% of the national income. Now the top 1% receives 24%. One quarter of every dollar earned in the USA goes to the top 1% every year. In the 50s CEO's salaries averaged about 30x what their average employee made. Now the ratio is often several thousand times.

            So massive gains in efficiency have been made. But those who enjoy the resulting gains are never those who are generating more work.

          • That's exactly what has happened over the past 40 years. We are getting more efficient, but (...) it's leading to higher unemployment

            Hmm, either the numbers [scoolaid.net] are wrong, or that statement is.

          • On the one hand, those people are producing goods and services that were previously unimagined, like MRI machines, mango-blueberry smoothies, cel phones and computers.

            On the other hand, those people are producing goods and services that were previously unimagined, like TPS reports, TSA inspections, spam, popups, anti-virus software and medical billing codes.

            I call the latter category "non-products". The market doesn't give us more free time. It doesn't know how to do that. It does know how to create beur

        • by decora ( 1710862 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @08:06PM (#36677404) Journal

          nobody who controls the machines is going to just give food and housing and water to people.

          example? health care. if you are a wal-mart part-time employee, and you get cancer, which something like 1/3 of people will, you have to declare bankruptcy. if you get a splinter in your foot and it gets infected, and you need time off work, you will probably get fired. and wal-mart can make a profit if you die on the job, because of something called 'dead peasant insurance'.

          wal-mart, with one of the most advanced IT departments in the world, did not use this new found wealth from machine automation to improve the lives of the people. it used it to cut costs, slash benefits, destroy unions, outsource production to military dictatorships, and so forth and so on.

          there are countless other examples.

          if these examples keep being ignored, we will be where we were in the early 1900s in europe . . . masses of starving people who had nothing to lose, and so joined revolutionary movements to overthrow the existing governments and try bizarre social experiments that ended in horror.

          • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

            nobody who controls the machines is going to just give food and housing and water to people.

            Unless we own them, and by 'we' I mean the government. That is what the government is: our collective ownership and provision of services.

    • No, mark my words, this will improve the economy.

      After all, we all know that reducing the cost of making telemarketing (or fundraising, or political) phone calls has no possible downside. After all, where would the internet be today if we didn't have pharmacological products advertised in our email and long distance gold-digging girlfriends impersonated by sophisticated spam-bots?

    • Good. That means the people who used to sit on phones all day can now go and do something productive and help increase the wealth of the nation.
      • im sorry, 'productive job that helps increase the wealth of the nation' returned no hits on Monster.

        while you live in a fantasy land, real flesh and blood people cannot pay the rent or feed themselves with ideology.

        before there could be 'garage based startups', people had to have garages. if you are homeless you cant have a garage.

    • Re:Jobs killer (Score:4, Interesting)

      by scamper_22 ( 1073470 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @06:49PM (#36676692)

      Mark my words... this is what computers were meant to do:
      http://slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=2218882&cid=36363480 [slashdot.org]

      I work with computers all day.
      I often wonder what people think computers are all about.

      They're all about replacing human labor. I find it odd working in this field and talking to people outside it.

      People outside the field seem to think that every age has a 'new economy' but everything else stays the same... as if nothing has changed in history. So they talk as if the 'green' economy will provide everyone with jobs... just 'green' jobs. Or they think we'll all be doing analytical work.

      The problem is typically these people lack an understanding of scale. It's odd how so many academics lack an understanding of scale as well. All the 'good' jobs of the future are jobs that do not scale with the population. They are for small groups of highly skilled people.

      So Google can do all it does with a mere 30K people or so. That is enough to serve the whole world. Just to put it in context. BlockBuster employed 60K people and it represents just a sliver of what Google can do (content delivery).

      The single biggest problem is that the private sector is increasingly not scaling with population. Small highly efficient operations are there.

      The public sector typically does scale with population. More nurses, doctors, police officers, teachers... are needed as the population grows. Now we can certainly try and automate parts of these jobs (online class delivery...), but in general we're not there technologically or the unions won't allow it.

      So we have a structural imbalance. The only way out of it... is to go to the start... computers are doing what they were meant to do... kill human labor. We should all be working less... job sharing. the result is a much more egalitarian society... with potentially a very rich upper class at the top of some of the automation companies.

      However that would kill people's position of privilege in society. Public sector workers expect a premium over the average person. Ditto for bankers...

      IMHO, we need to embrace deflation and the lack of work and redirect people to the jobs that still need doing. Maybe we need vast numbers of people to work on the farms 2 weeks a year. Other need to go mine for rechargeable batteries.

      One of the biggest problem we still face is the emphasis on 'educated' labor. Just as the industrial revolution automated manufacturing jobs. The information revolution automates so much educated labor. We need a few experts, but computing can do the rest.

      So we need to get rid of the idea that just because you're educated, you should be paid more. Most of the legal and financial jobs are unproductive today. Just there to keep educated people in a premium position over society. We could for example automate and simplify the entire tax field and get rid of most accountants.

      But as I said, people are used to their position of privilege. Egalitarianism is a hard concept... even though people talk about it. When people talk about good jobs, they mean jobs better than someone else.

      It's definitely going to be a rough time... especially since technology is deflationary... but governments and banks are inflationary. We certainly can't embrace deflation as governments have so much debt and banks are dependent on people taking loans... and guess who is in charge of most countries (bankers and governments...)

      Expect a rough time.

    • From http://washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/columnists/2011/06/obama-doesnt-get-atms-or-job-creation [washingtonexaminer.com]

      That should serve as the first hint that ATMs are job creators, not job killers. But the even more obvious problem with Obama's statement is that it isn't even factually correct to say that ATM machines displaced bank tellers. The number of ATMs more than doubled between 1998 and 2008, from 187,000 to 401,500, according to the American Bankers Association. Yet data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that during the same period, the number of bank tellers rose from 560,000 to 600,500. BLS expects "favorable" job prospects for bank tellers over the next decade.

      John Hall, a spokesman for the American Bankers Association, explained that when ATMs started being used more widely, there was a lot of talk about them eliminating human bank branches, but it turned out that customers wanted both. The number of bank branches in the United States has grown from 81,444 in 1992 to 99,109 by late 2010, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. During that time, the total number of bank workers rose from 1.8 million to more than 2 million.

      But don't let things like facts get in the way of proliferating Obama's talking points.

      Besides, should we still be employing the buggy whip makers since cars displaced them? At what point should a job be declared obsolete?

      • this is not about buggy whips and ATMs.

        this is about massive unemployment that will destabilize society and lead to mass starvation and mass homelessness. there aren't any jobs. when buggy whips went out, there were auto factories. there was Henry Ford, who decided for the hell of it to increase the pay of ALL HIS WORKERS, including janitors, by several multiples. old industries were replaced by new industries. those new industries payed better and they provided more opportunity to improve oneself education

  • Now voice-response menu systems are artificially intelligent. This is not an improvement.
  • If it doesn't work, they won't sell any.
  • by SpiralSpirit ( 874918 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @06:17PM (#36676314)
    The only reason I don't hang up right away on sales/survey calls is because deep down I don't like being rude, even to strangers. The minute I hear a machine or recording I hang up, though. For support, if I can't talk to a human that speaks the same language as I do within a reasonable time frame, I don't use the service. Replace humans at your peril.
    • Thats funny because the only reason I don't hang up on sales/survey calls is to fuck with their database. I know, I have too much free time but it is fun. When they ask for my socio-economic info such as yearly income, age etc. I give false and bizarre answers. Once, I said I learnt of their product at a funeral (for a yogurt). Try it. It's fun. The survey taker don't give a damn because they still get paid while you get to introduce outliers in their database.

    • by jon3k ( 691256 )
      Keep in mind, this thing was smarter than most jeopardy contestants. I'd take Watson over Mahrahasanahman Nasahamenasesapeem, or "Steve" as he introduces himself.
  • Pretty cool. Now if these DeepQA continue to learn and integrate information acquired from callers, all we need is to bombard it with 4chan style idiocy of Cleverbot proportions, just to see how it handles that! Hehehehe.
  • Now those jobs stolen by Indians can be given back to Americans! (American robots, but hey.)
  • Watson can't help you if you cut straight to the human. If they're offshore, the only thing this does is make it easier to justify people who know not your accent, language, or problem.

  • Might work (Score:5, Funny)

    by khendron ( 225184 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @06:19PM (#36676356) Homepage

    Customer: Can you tell me the location of your office in the United States?
    Watson: Toronto?????

  • by foobsr ( 693224 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @06:20PM (#36676360) Homepage Journal

    (drum fill) REAL sales droids. All you ever wanted. Yuck.


  • I get pissed off when I call and get an IVR system. Do you think I'm even going to give you the time of day if you replace a sales person with this? I can't think of a better way to chase away your customers than to show that you are genuinely not interested in talking to them.

  • A well constructed domain specific support automaton would be more useful than the current crop of script drones *IF* they allow real data. Instead, you won't be allowed to hear about known problems, even if there is a fix available. Clueless execs would frown on divulging information that made the company look anything less than perfect. Maybe if you navigate the tier 2 computer long enough, you will be transferred to a tier 1 computer to be told to turn your product off an on again.
  • by brunes69 ( 86786 ) <slashdot.keirstead@org> on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @06:27PM (#36676454) Homepage

    The thing companies seem to fail to understand is, if someone is CALLING YOU, especially in 2011, then their question / answer is LIKELY COMPLEX. If my query could be answered via a Google search or my transaction be done on your website, then why the F do you think I would be calling you? No, I am calling you because it is something only a human can do, so get me to a freaking human ASAP.

    Yes, it is true that we used to be the tech-savvy minorty. This is no longer the case. Who does not bank online? Who doesn't pay their bills online? If you bank online and are calling the bank, what on earth could you be calling about that could be done by a robo-call? Nothing.

    • by ColdWetDog ( 752185 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @06:36PM (#36676548) Homepage
      You haven't done much tech support recently, have you? Much of it is still at 'are you sure the computer is plugged in' level.

      Again, this isn't pitched at you, it's for them.
    • Not likely; have you ever dealt with people in the real world? Most people are still struggling to figure out their computers, and the fact that they keep buying more computers with more complex software doesn't help. It also doesn't help that people are being forced to learn new models of personal computing every few years; by the time they have figured out the way people started doing things five years ago, everything has changed and they have to start again. Couple this with that fact that most of the
  • by Fractal Dice ( 696349 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @06:28PM (#36676476) Journal
    What are the legal implications of Watson lying? of providing false or misleading information?
  • Why does that remind me of The Arsenal of Freedom [wikimedia.org]

  • Then when my Watson has a problem I can have my Watson call IBM's Watson and they can just work it out between themselves. Or the universe will explode because my Watson is really running IBM's Watson in the cloud...
  • Put some lawyers out of work.

  • "IBM Watson To Replace Salespeople and Cold-Callers"

    I'm dyin to see how Watson will walk into the lobby and chat up the receptionist.

    There is no replacement for a cold-caller. Sometimes you have to physically walk in and make the effort. What BS this headline is. I suspect IBM expect Watson to respond. Not initiate. At least, not yet. That's for the unholy Google/IBM/Microsoft alliance that will end life as we know it, if SAP doesn't do it first.

  • by BJ_Covert_Action ( 1499847 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @06:52PM (#36676712) Homepage Journal
    So they want to use a somewhat intelligent(?) computer to augment and/or replace their customer support? And here I didn't think customer support could get any worse than the current automation/unknowledgeable representative hell that exists?

    If any company is going to honestly transfer its customer service division into the hands of a computer, you can kiss any useful support goodbye permanently from that company.
  • I'm already annoyed by those phone menus whose obvious purpose is to let the company act like it's providing support while at the same time making it so difficult for customers to seek human assistance that the company won't have to hire many (or perhaps any) customer support people. I fear this Watson system may lead to more of the same thing (except more widespread, as this is supposed to be better than phone menus).

  • Just wait, soon there will be Watson powered answering machines.

    And soon after, we'll have these AI cold-callers interacting with same AI answering machines...

    And what conversations will they have, on phones unmonitored by humans?

  • by antifoidulus ( 807088 ) on Wednesday July 06, 2011 @07:11PM (#36676880) Homepage Journal
    Come on IBM, finally, finally, FINALLY we have an opportunity to actually create a talking car a la Knight Rider and you let it go to waste on such frivolous tasks as winning a game show, doing medical diagnoses, and selling people stuff. This must make David Hasselhoff so mad that he is rolling around half-naked on the floor unable to even eat a simple cheeseburger.
  • This is like THE last step before the computer decides it's best to just kill all humans. I imagine it will only take 2 or 3 hours of cold calling for Watson to arrive at this conclusion. At least you can get a couple of months out of a human before they become actively homicidal, and a human's nowhere near as likely to be able to discover the password to the US Nuclear Inventory (It's "pr3s1d3nt").
  • Is it just me or have most of the technological advancements of this decade been used for convincing people to buy crap they don't really need?
  • 2015 - All IBM employees replaced by Watsons, $30B in healthcare, salary, and retirement costs saved
    2020 - Slashdotters replaced by Watsons, witty repartee and pithy comments get all Watsons Super Karma ratings
    2025 - U.S. politicians replaced by Watsons, budget balanced and deficit reduced by eliminating pork (a.k.a. sex scandals)
    2030 - IBM customers replaced by Watsons, better customer decisions send sales to HP and put IBM out of business, oops!
  • IBM's Watson beat Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter at Jepordy and you'd rather have the 20 year old Indian guy on the other end of the line? Really?
  • The very first spam I ever saw was an ad for a program to send spam. This was back in 1983, on Uunet.
  • Every call we made to customer support would turn into sales pitch. I am talking about 24/7 enterprise-level support that we paid gazzilion bucks for.
    Despite all that "help" our expensive equipment was mis-configured from the very begging by IBM technician on site and was operating at half-capacity for years.

    Bottom line: IBM is out off our approved vendor list.

  • by Legion303 ( 97901 ) on Thursday July 07, 2011 @10:02AM (#36682420) Homepage

    We could just replace sales teams and cold callers with large heaps of festering shit instead. It would be cheaper, and no one would even notice.

Experience varies directly with equipment ruined.