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Phone calls are the gold standard


Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

Try to do business with a member of the greatest generation, the baby boomers, the Xers or the little talked of “silent” generation and you will find that at some point in the process you will have to escalate from the digital medium of your choice to a phone conversation.

An agreement, no matter how insignificant, can prove difficult to make without passing through an analog verification process: a phone call has to be made, in which the trickery of bots and west-Africa based princes may be disassembled through good old organic, un-artificial intelligence.

A phone conversation provides proof of a value that exists in the physical world. The voice of a real person can be heard and the person in question can be prompted to provide convincing arguments; arguments regarding the reliability of the person or organization and the existence of resources backing the same. An in-person meeting could, of course, increase confidence even further. However, even if we disregard international dealings, the sheer size of our country and our already stretched schedules makes such interfacing more the exception than the rule. One might in this way consider the phone conversation the de facto gold standard of communication. The question is whether we can expect this to continue.

Robocalls are an annoying, but not a particularly new strategy among marketers and political campaigns. We have long learned to evaluate the phone number shown on our smartphones before picking up. If we don’t recognize it or it is from out of our area, many people will refrain from answering. However, if we do not recognize it, but the display assures us it is a local number, we are more likely to pick up. Maybe a friend is borrowing a phone or could it be the local car shop or hairdresser?

As one could expect from the mechanics of evolution it did not take long before this behavior of ours was considered in the strategies of the nefarious schemers within the shadier regions of marketing. One response is the use of hi-jacked local numbers. The robot or the wealthy Nigerian refugee is using a local number temporarily to increase the probability of you answering. If you do not answer but call back, a perfectly average Joe down the street will pick up and have no idea why you think he just called you.

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Therefore, although the tendencies are just beginning to show, the phone call is likely to soon become the real gold standard of communication: an artificial meter against which to measure value. Just like gold, which has little human value — apart from being yellow and rare — the phone conversation may soon be moved from the categories of elements ruling business and societal dealings to those of pure pleasure. What will be left, and what artificial intelligence so far shows no promise to compromise, is the spatially immediate interfacing of humans — or in human lingo: face to face meetings.

Karl Holmgren

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