My Uncle Dick had a donkey. If you tickled “Rosie” under the chin, she would bleat out a whimpering “B-a-a-a” sound, that on most days was so authentic that Stanley the Suffolk ram would come galumphing toward the sound in full raging glory.
My Uncle Dick enjoyed tormenting Stanley. He’d wait until big Stan was just ‘round the corner of the barn out of sight, then start in again rubbing Rosie’s chin. Stanley would respond by charging the feed lot, and ramming his forehead against the slatted gate, over and over again, in frustration.
Uncle Dick wasn’t a cruel man, by nature. He just thought that torturing Stanley’s libido emboldened the beast psychologically, yielding a heartier flock of emotionally tough offspring.
Personally, I think it went further to explain why the ribald ram snuck behind the roost, and plotted revolt with the chickens, in a barnyard “coop” d’état.
Rosie seemed to enjoy the deception, too. She was a clever little donkey, although she didn’t include sheep impressions in her standup until Uncle Dick trained her over time. Initially, a scratch or two under the chin yielded only a “bleh” sound. But once Dick discovered the sweet spot, Rosie broke the silence of the lambs.
For some reason, I think about Rosie and Uncle Dick every time I dial Customer Service.
Today, you are apt to be sharing a conversation with a false face. You are as likely to encounter a computer as you are a human. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is everywhere. And it isn’t your father’s AI, either. Gone are the days when choppy dialogue and irrational answers alert you to the fact that you are talking with a computer.
It used to be that you could spot whether Artificial Intelligence was being employed. All you had to do was chuck an idiom at it –– like “kick the bucket” –– and watch the machine come to a screeching halt, or blurt out some disconnected response.
Now AI is sophisticated. The longer you talk, the more language the computer recognizes. It adjusts itself on the fly. The more data AI collects, the more it learns. Words, accents, inflection, tempo are massaged in the computer database, over and over again –– like Uncle Dick rubbing Rosie’s chin –– until the machine teaches itself to, well . . . be human.
This isn’t just your coffee machine remembering that you like dark roast each morning.
AI has infiltrated every aspect of our lives. Our cell phones are able to predict our behavior, and actually make decisions on where we should eat and where we should shop. Our cars drive themselves, utilizing real-time data to send us safely (we hope) down the road.
If you need a new car, Carvana will sell you a car, in minutes, even though they don’t employ sales people. Their customer service representative is an AI dude named Sebastian. How about a new home? Rocket Mortgage, the first 100 percent digital lender, uses machine learning throughout the process.
Today, machines are replacing humans everywhere.
Fast food companies, trucking firms, logistics firms, banking and financial industries are all opting for digital employees over the obsolete human.
Some companies are now employing avatars –– artificially intelligent humanoid robots –– to make human interaction with machines seem more human than humans.
AI can now build its own value system, and with a few tweaks, who is to say that Artificial Intelligence won’t also someday develop its own morals. There may come time when cheating on your spouse is perfectly acceptable, as long as you do it with a robot.
When that day comes, I’m sure I’ll be down on the farm with ol’ Stanley … beating my head against the slatted gate.

John O. Marlowe is an award-winning columnist for Sagamore News Media