You Hear Me Now? Do You Want To?
by Mad Dog
Researchers have developed the Jerk-O-Meter, a
program for your cell phone that analyzes a person’s speech patterns
and lets you know if they’re paying attention to what you’re saying.
|Well, we’ve done it.
There are now more people with cell phones in the United States than
land lines. This means we can look forward to more people appearing to
talk to themselves while walking down the street, taking photos of
tomatoes in the supermarket and asking the person they’re chatting
with if it looks ripe enough, and wondering aloud into their phone about
why the guy in the next car who they just cut off is giving them a nasty
look. Hey, lighten up, pal! Call a friend and complain to them, will
You have to wonder, though, what
everyone is talking about so much. Back in the prehistoric, barbarian
days before cell phones, people managed to wait until they were home or
at work to use the phone. Heck, I hear people even managed to survive
before Alexander Graham Bell leaned into the first mouthpiece and said,
“Watson, come here! I can’t remember Bicycle Built For Two
and I want the telephone to play that when you call me.”
An exhaustive three-minute search on
Google didn’t turn up any statistics, but it’s a safe bet our THST
(Total Hours Spent Talking) has shot up dramatically since cell phones
stopped looking like military walkie-talkies and weighing as much as a
small child. It has to have increased — had the same THST been jammed
into the amount of time people had landline phones handy we would have
been on the phone from the minute we got home until the minute we passed
out from overexerted jaw syndrome.
It measures the levels of stress and empathy in a person's
voice, as well as keeping track of how often they speak, if they pause a
lot, have flat pitch levels, or are snoring and arrives at an attention
score between zero (dead) and 100 (highly interested or faking it well
in the hope of having sex).
So what are people talking about? And more importantly, is anyone
listening? Luckily we may soon be able to find out the answer to the
second question. That’s right, researchers at the Massachusetts
Institute of Technology (motto: “Is that a slide rule in your pocket
or are you telling outdated jokes again?”) have developed the
Jerk-O-Meter, a program for your cell phone that analyzes a person’s
speech patterns and lets you know if they’re paying attention to what
you’re saying or whether they’re preoccupied doing something else,
which is kind of silly when you think of it because it’s been proven
that I’m the only person who actually sits and talks on a cell phone
without doing twelve other tasks at the same time.
program accomplishes this by using mirrors. Just kidding. Everyone knows
cell phones don’t have mirrors, though — pay attention Nokia —
they should. Actually it measures the levels of stress and empathy in a
person's voice, as well as keeping track of how often they speak, if
they pause a lot, have flat pitch levels, or are snoring. Using a
mathematical algorithm closely related to the one developed for the
Magic 8-Ball, it arrives at an attention score between zero (dead) and
100 (highly interested or faking it well in the hope of having sex).
The prototype Jerk-O-Meter monitors
the user’s end of the conversation, not the person on the other end.
It warns you “Don't be a jerk!”, “Be a little nicer,” and
“Don’t you wish you’d gotten into a school as good as M.I.T.?”
The problem is, if your attention has strayed that much you won’t even
notice the warning message popping up, now will you? Besides, why
monitor ourselves, I think most of us are capable of knowing when
we’re not paying attention, don’t you think? I said, MOST OF US ARE
CAPABLE OF KNOWING WHEN WE’RE NOT PAYING ATTENTION, DON’T YOU THINK?
phones have become electronic Swiss Army Knives, except they don’t
have the things we need most, like a screwdriver, corkscrew, and Jude
Law detector. Or better yet, deflector.
Please, try to stick with me.
The Jerk-O-Meter isn’t a very
useful invention. After all, if you’re really concerned that the
person you’re talking to isn’t paying attention then maybe it’s a
sign you’re talking too much. Of course you have to remember that most
people who use cell phones do it because they love to talk and don’t
care if anyone’s listening or not because, the truth is, the less the
other person talks the more you get to, and after all, no one, but no
one is as interesting and fascinating as you are. And don’t you forget
Thus we’ll soon have one more thing
on our phone that we won’t use. My cell phone is already jammed with
useless things — I mean features — including a calculator, alarm
clock, appointment calendar, voice recorder, world time clock, games,
and a zillion other things I never remember are there, better yet have
any idea how to access when the rare occasion arises that I realize I
have it and it would actually be handy if only I knew how to use it.
Cell phones have become electronic Swiss Army Knives, except they
don’t have the things we need most, like a screwdriver, corkscrew, and
Jude Law detector. Or better yet, deflector.
There will be people who use the
Jerk-O-Meter, just as there are people who think the William Tell
Overture at 120 decibels is an appropriate ringtone during a movie
and that the service which — True Fact Alert! — lets you hold the
phone out to your dog while it barks and tells you what the dog’s
trying to say is a great idea. But like William Hung’s Christmas
album, green-filled Twinkies, and the remake of the Dukes of Hazzard,
just because it exists doesn’t mean it’s a good idea. But hey, no
one listens to me anyway.
©2005 Mad Dog
Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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