January 17, 2019

Let’s All Meet ‘Cody (CODE-E),’ PwC’s Newest and ‘Creepiest’ Grunt

Earlier this morning, as I was getting ready to go to the dentist because I have a killer toothache, I heard from a tipster who told me to check out what’s going on in PwC’s Twitterverse. And this is what I saw:

I guess PwC is taking this artificial intelligence thing to a whole new (dumb) level.

After I got back from the dentist, I decided to do a little more digging and came across this video that PwC US tweeted out on Oct. 11:

So, the robot has many skills. It can give high-fives. It can change its eyes. And it can sing. So, it’s sort of like Bob Moritz but with less hair.

But the main thing the robot will be doing is helping educators teach students technology skills and financial literacy.

The video ends with the robot asking, “What should the kids call me? That’s up to you.” Well, PwC pored over all the suggested names, which included lame ideas like “Roh-Bot,” “Fin,” “Ollie Bot,” “Betty Bot,” and “Botsy,” and came up with three finalists and put those names on Twitter for a vote:

PwC totally dropped the ball on this. Why it didn’t choose “CPwC30,” as someone suggested, is a damn shame. Anyway, “Cody (CODE-E)” it is.

This whole robot deal is part of PwC’s Access Your Potential program, which the firm explains thusly:

Access Your Potential is our commitment to help close the opportunity gap by equipping young people, especially those from disadvantaged communities, with the financial, technology and career-selection skills they need to change the trajectory of their lives.

Look, I think teaching kids financial literacy is great. I wish someone had taught me financial literacy in school so when I went to college and got my first credit card, I didn’t charge everything and anything.

My wife, who works at a bank in the Chicago area, taught financial literacy to lower- to moderate-income students this summer as part of a school program. But how can PwC make a robot relatable to students? My wife was able to reach the students’ level by bringing up money they understood, like Fortnite V-Bucks. Will PwC program the robot to do that?

I asked my youngest daughter, who is in fourth grade, what she would think if a robot like CODE-E came into her classroom. And she said, “I would kick it and run out of the classroom because he’s creepy.” And, yeah, I was talking to my kid about robots, just like Cathy Engelbert.

Animatronic Donald Trump

If my fourth-grade daughter thinks a financial literacy-spewing robot is creepy, what are fifth-graders or sixth-graders going to think? It’ll be like going to Disney World and having animatronic Donald Trump (speaking of creepy) trying to teach you how to be presidential. The students aren’t going to take what a robot is saying seriously. Isn’t human-to-human interaction better for students when it comes to learning about money, budgeting, or other financial concepts?

And how is the robot going to respond when a kid by the name of Jacob whips a miniature PwC piggy bank at its head? How are the robot’s handlers going to react? You know the teacher will probably be out on a smoke break or talking bad about Jacob to the other teachers in the staff lounge while CODE-E is talking to her students about credit and debt.

But the tipster probably had the best question of all: “Will the robot that PwC is sending out on tour be carrying the Academy Awards briefcase?” Well, the robot can’t do any worse than Brian Cullinan and Martha Ruiz.

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Hey, There Was a PwC Robot Sighting in NYC School

Back in late October, we told you about CODE-E, a robot PwC is bringing to schools to help educators teach students about technology skills and financial literacy. Because no one can teach students how to manage their money better than a non-human, right? Right. Anyway, it looks like CODE-E is starting to make the rounds […]