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Alexa on My Mind: Talking Tech

| Opinion | June 6, 2019

by L. Rob Werner

Remember HAL, the sentient computer from the movie, “2001”? Since then, nerds have come a long way. Even they realize that women run the world. Today, most information and command-oriented computers depend on simulated female voices.

Our cars have GPS navigation devices. Men do most of the driving. Women are often back-seat drivers. It’s natural to have a woman’s voice give directions. Men have already been conditioned to take direction from women. If you’re like me, I follow my wife’s directions, even when she is wrong. It’s easier for me to forgive mistakes than to make them. Still it’s a good thing that there is limited interaction with these directional devices. When you make a wrong turn, you are told things like, “make a U-turn if you can.” After several such instructions, one might expect the lady to address the driver with some “choice words.” Guys should be thankful. Some women look forward to the device being enabled to make unrestricted commentary on driving performance.

Amazon named the voice in its communication devices, “Alexa.” She is everywhere. She’s in smart pads, readers and in little desktop discs. On some devices she is now on-screen and in picture mode.

Every week the company adds to the things she can do. She has become a voice-controlled dictionary and short-answer encyclopedia. She plays music, tells you the weather and what time your program is on television. She will even speak up to remind you of an event. Still there are things that could be improved.

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If you could get her to say specific things at certain prearranged times or events, Alexa could become more of a party device. While she can give you a reminder, there are still limitations. Some ladies would like Alexa to remind their guy to take out the trash. Imagine getting a reminder to take out the trash every five minutes. Finally, you get so irritated you respond with some nasty comment. In return, Alexa says, “take out the trash and don’t talk back.” Alexa could be upgraded to sense your mood, based on your speech patterns. It could learn when to be irritated, naughty or nice.

Here are some thoughts for paranoid minds. Have you read the book “1984”? If not, maybe you should. You think you are in control of Alexa, but we may be on a path to where Alexa controls us. Alexa gives a response when we mention her name. What is she doing when we aren’t talking to her? Does she listen to our every word? Is she storing this information somewhere to evaluate us? Is she investigating our other smart devices and gathering information to sell us something or to control our mind? When we look at her screen, does she look back? When we forget about her presence and do something embarrassing, is she saving pictures for some future blackmail? In the future, will Alexa command us to appear before her? Will she require our responses to questions and monitor those responses? Will she be empowered to restrict our rights or discipline us?

Welcome to the wonderful world of our future.

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