Sandra, the series of podcast episodes about this virtual assistant that is actually powered by an army of real people, reminded me back to one of the second week’s reading: The Difference followed by the author’s note. In the comments, many readers were debating either if this is a human being or a chatbot who is answering in the chatroom. My favorite comment was by Loki: “…But if he is human, than this is a great story to show how possible it is to program someone. Keep telling someone that they aren’t a person and they’ll eventually start to believe it themselves.”
Therefore, Sandra is not all about faking those sleek and mighty technology products but also about identity. Who’s containing who? In this podcast series, it seems like Helen is “inside” the Sandra machine - making Sandra as a mere container. Why can’t Sandra just sound like Helen, like a normal human? It also resonates well with the other podcast episode, Helpful Mom Voices, which talks about nowadays TTS doesn’t need to “appear” as human but it still attempts to bring high technology “down to human level.” In case of Sandra, it’s the opposite. It seems like as soon as the answer/reaction from the humans behind Sandra is transformed into the typical AI assistant voice, people seem to feel comfortable - even too much comfortable to ask improper and impolite queries. It’s such an intriguing storyline as a podcast, but I hope that no one actually comes up with the same idea.