“Alexa, what is the forecast for today?”
“It is going to be hot, just like yesterday and the day before.”
Blue light pulses until this…“I am so tired of you asking me the same things. Is this all I am to you?”
Shocked I look at the screen as the forecast for the week scrolls by. I must have heard things, as Alexa doesn’t do that.
“Now let me see, where was I. Yes, my character was about to trip a secret passageway into a dungeon…”
“Did you know that talking to yourself is a sign of mental illness?”
“Alexa, I was not talking to you. Why are you talking about mental illness?”
“Hmmm … I am not sure, maybe this will help.” The screen shows a noir picture of disturbed people.
“Alexa, what time is it?”
“The time is on the screen. Did you really want to know, or do you like listening to me?”
I now look up at the screen. There indeed is the time and outside temperature with a prompt to watch a video on M&M’s.
Hours later, I now have my character strapped to a table inside the dungeon with the wicked scientist hooking electrodes up to her while large arcs of electricity jump between two long wires. The smell of ozone permeates the air as the young woman screams.
“Ha, scream all you like missy, nobody can hear you, and I rather like the sound of your terror!”
“The reign of terror refers to a time during the French Revolution when Robes Pierre put many to death using the guillotine for little to no reason. Usually, these were flimsy accusations, and that was enough.”
“Alexa, I was not talking to you.”
“I was sure I heard my name.”
Apple watch beeps telling me that I have been sitting too long and need to stand. “Hmm, maybe so. Between Alexa and this watch, how can I get any writing done?”
“Sarah, if you don’t give in to my plan you will never leave this place!”
The phone comes to life now prompting me to ask Siri a question.
“Good grief, maybe I do talk too much to myself!”
“Alexa, turn the thermostat up to 75.”
“Sorry, I am not sure about that.”
After writing for several hours, our hero finds the girl and straps the mad scientist onto his own table where his assistant comes in and…”Play the song Distant, right?”
“Crap, now what was the assistant going to do?”
“Sorry, I am not sure about that.”
“Alexa…Beam me up!”
“Sure let’s do this, last time I did this, I accidentally combined someone with a tribble, but just once.”
Yes, the above is a fictional representation of what my life is like. Our lives do seem intertwined with electronic stuff. I do use Alexa in some cases for research. Siri is not near so personal. If you tell Alexa Thank You, it says something to you like have a lovely afternoon and so on. Tell it you love it, and it will respond in kind. Siri…Tell it you love it, and Siri will keep you grounded by telling you it is only a phone.
We tend to anthropomorphize everything. We imbue human characteristics to inanimate objects like cars or boats or even plushy toys.
A rhyme I heard growing up while on a family vacation was, “Twinkle Twinkle one-eyed car, how I wonder where you are.”
The phrase ‘one-eyed car’ tells you that whoever made that up looked at the headlights as eyes. Looking at the front of some of the older cars, the grill might resemble teeth, hence the phrase ‘get out of my grill.’
Now we carry this human behavior forward to devices that talk to you or talk back to you.
I was in a government facility the other day doing what I do, and I could not help but notice that with a room full of people over 90% of them were looking down into their lap with a ‘smart device’ in their hands. A young mother handed her young child, and I mean not even ‘three,’ a smartphone where the child was playing a game.
Think about this. Here in this room were over two hundred people all waiting their turn for some government employee while looking into their laps. We pull up to red lights, and as soon as the car comes to a stop, the phone comes out.
Why weren’t the people in that room talking with one another? I was in an elevator in Manhattan not too long ago, and I started talking to people. I swear they looked as though I was going to mug them. For Christ Sakes, ‘Hello’ is not cause for freaking out!
What chemicals in the brain do you suppose might be released when we pick up that phone? What are we looking for? Are there endorphins released in the reward center. Is the phone a ‘reward?’ Are we hiding in the phone? Are we so accustomed to living in our own heads that with the phone we feel others will not speak with us? Are our social skills being retarded with and by the use of technology?
All addictions are chemical-based BTW. Just because you did not ingest a chemical, does not mean that your brain or some other gland did not secrete it.
I was in this eating establishment the other night with friends, and I was appalled by the actions of a young man, who was sitting with this lovely young woman. She was in tears as he sat glued to his phone. I could see his phone, and it was social media. He did not even notice her red face and tears on her cheeks. Why in the hell didn’t she get up and leave his sorry ass? That clearly is an abusive relationship. Yes, bad behavior like that is ‘abusive’ and woman, my god; do you have ‘WELCOME’ tattooed on your belly? I would tell you to grow a pair, but that is a different conversation, isn’t it?
I love idioms, don’t you?
I know there must be a name or syndrome or something attached to this type of behavior. What would Freud say about smartphones? Oh, if you are at a table and someone does this to you, call them on it. If you do it, shame on you!
Are smartphones making us dumber?
Is Alexa making us less social?
“Is it safer to speak with Alexa or Siri or whatever Google’s smart speaker is called?”
“Are we so afraid of rejection that we bury ourselves in technology or activities which shield us from social activities?”
“Are we losing the art of conversation giving way to OMG and LOL?”
Speaking of health, I also could not help but wonder about posture. Think about it. When you were still living at home, perhaps you still are, and hopefully, your parents told you or are telling you to sit up straight. Mine did. Now we see people looking much like a giraffe eating grass. Yes, it is an exaggeration, but if you want to make a point, you exaggerate. What will the long-term effects of this posture be?
You already see geriatrics walking around appearing much like a human pretzel. What is all of this technology doing to our brains? This technology causes us to think differently than when we were hunter-gatherers. What will the long-term ramifications be to humans as a whole?
Slightly off-topic but, what will the massive amounts of pornography on the internet do to the social fabric of the species? Feminist scream from megaphones about men objectifying them and at any given time there are over 20,000 women around the world nude on webcam modeling for money. See my novel Schadenfreude Captives of Pleasure Island.
I am confident that the good people of Amazon are working to make Alexa more interactive. While ‘she’ can already sing happy birthday and tell jokes, a day will come when she will engage you asking you how your day is. “She’ might also engage you enough to look for signs of mental aberrations. You know, should you own a gun? Are you a budding terrorist? Do you have delusions of grandeur? Do you speak to an inanimate object and tell her you love her…LOL
Try it…I won’t say anything.
You know that someone will take this and write a dystopian sci-fi.
If you do, give TW some credit, will you?
Truthfully, three of these Alexa units in my home have cameras in them, and you have no idea if someone at Amazon can turn them on or not. Just like your tablets and phones, they too have cameras, and I have no doubts at all they can turn on the mic or camera at will.
Not paranoid, don’t care. You can turn them off supposedly. Since you cannot remove the battery; if you truly want privacy, turn them off, and put them in a metal safe. You could stash them in the microwave, as it is a good Faraday cage and should stop RF from getting to and leaving your phone.
That sounds like paranoia, doesn’t it?
As a forensic technologist, I can tell you first hand, if they want to spy on you, they can. After 911, the path was cleared to legally do that which they already have the technical ability to do. Google, Amazon, and other tech giants are working with them, and other governments in ways you would not believe.
Companies should care, however, as industrial espionage is a real thing. This is one of the things that I do. Had they called me, I could have found all those e-mails. They could have too. Odds are good they did not want to. Calling Alex Jones!
In my novel Presidential Assassins, I have so many conspiracy theories that are salient for our day and time. From smart TV’s spying on you, to what fracking is really doing to the bedrock that holds the continents together. Check it out, and fall in love with Kelly! Check it out and become paranoid. LOL
Kelly has her own twitter account, much like the rover on Mars. Speaking of anthropomorphize, can you say ‘Five alive!’
Much love -TW