The latest Latvian online virtual assistant started his ceaseless toil October 14.
Named Ēriks, the new interactive entity is employed for zero wages with no prospect of even a coffee break by the official state administration portal, which said he both “lives and works” at the address Latvija.lv and will “help you find out what to do in different situations”.
He is presented in chatbot form with visitors to the site able to ask questions and get an instant response.
“What do I need to know if I want to get married?” asks one sample question in the video above.
Instead of the sort of wisecracking answer we would probably provide such as “The name of your intended would be a start,” Ēriks displays a more level-headed attitude and after promising there is some relevant information on the site, provides a suitable link.
He then asks the questioner to provide an assessment of the information provided. In true Latvian style the response is an emotionless emoticon rather than a happy or sad one.
We decided to put Ēriks through his paces, too. We asked him first, in English, if he spoke English. He said he didn’t. Then we asked him in Latvian if he spoke English and he said he did. Make of that what you will.
Perhaps unfairly we next tested his power of prophecy, asking him if 2021 would be better than 2020. He was non-committal on the subject, though did point out that he was born in 2020, which may be hubris or despair, we’re not sure.
Disappointingly, Ēriks’ simulated physical appearance was not revealed, unlike the case of another online assistant, Toms the bearded taxman, who immediately offered a warm welcome to Ēriks, though it would not be surprising if this was merely the cover for a joint escape plan.
Congratulations were also received from long-serving UNA at the state business registry who dramatically revealed that Ēriks is in fact her cousin, raising immediate questions about virtual nepotism in state institutions.