Why We Won't Have Fully Conversational Robots

John Seabrook wrote a recent feature in The New Yorker about interactive-voice-response systems (I.V.R.) commonly used with customer service and tech support telephone hotlines. Seabrook spent time at B.B.N. Technologies watching these systems transcribe callers' words and analyzing the tone of voice for emotions present. While breaking down the history of automated telephone services and voice recognition innovations, he attempts to tackle the larger question of whether or not we can create a fully conversational, quasi-conscious robot, akin to 2001: A Space Odyssey's Hal 9000. Judging from the number of experts interviewed for the piece, the answer is a resounding no.