Google Voice and “The Future”

There was an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where Data, the android, encountered his mother.  Of course, this women was the wife of the inventor who created Data rather than his biological mother, but there was a second twist: she was an android too.  Data, upon discovering the truth when her circuitry is revealed, finds a prerecorded message from his inventor father.  The interesting part: the message asks Data for his name, and upon giving it, a new file is activated with personalized questions and answers from his father.

This always fascinated me as a kid.  It seemed like the ultimate in sci-fi technology: intelligent programs that would allow for customized responses even when the creator could not necessarily anticipate who would find his or her work.  After taking my first computer science classes, I had better insight into how this sort of arrangement would work.  Call for name, enter name, if/then etc.

Today part of that technology exists in my everyday life.  With Google Voice, users have the ability to set custom “answering machine” messages for certain individuals.  Of course, they have to be calling from a specific number for this to work, but the results can still be interesting when people discover the customization.  When I first got my GV account, I set up almost everyone I knew with a custom message.  After more than two years, some people are still getting the message for the first time.  A few were specific in-jokes that are not as relevant to us today, but are now causing a whole new effect.

There is a lot of talk about AI and Minority Report interface and voice control these days.  It will be interesting to see how things develop, but it’s nice to see that there are a few pieces in place.  Like the self-driving car, it won’t happen overnight, but a split between AI and human management of communication is sneaking up on us at a good clip.


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  1. Still getting the message for the first time? Was that as a result of a glitch in the Google Voice system?

  2. No, just people I either have always picked up for or just don’t talk to much on the phone.

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