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It’s Good to be King – Until Your Not!

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How would this go?

adobe-spark-2Me – “Honey would you turn on the news?”

Spouse – “Sure. I turned on NPR“

Me – “Honey, turn on the lights in the den.”

Spouse – “Hmmm, Ok“

Me – “Honey can you close the garage?”

Spouse – “Really?  Ok“

Me – “Honey, it’s a bit chilly, can you turn up the thermostat to 70?”

Spouse – “Can you get off your lazy ass and do it yourself?”

I am confident that if you treated a family member or friend the way you can treat Amazon Echo and Google Home you would be in the dog house fairly quickly. The fact is it is pretty difficult to ask just about anyone to perform all of the trivial acts that fill up our days. Not anymore.

Lately, I have been living like a king.

Me – “Alexa, turn on the lights.”

Alexa – “Ok”

Me – “Alexa set an alarm for 6 am”

Alexa – “Ok, alarm set for 6 am”

Me – “Alexa, play the myths and legends podcast.”

Alexa – “Ok, playing the latest episode of myths and legends.”

Me – “Alexa, set a sleep timer for 10 minutes.”

Alexa – “Ok, I will stop playing in 10 minutes”

Me – “Alexa, turn off the lights”

Alexa – “Ok”

Me – “Alexa, Goodnight”

Alexa – “Goodnight”

This is not a blog about whether to buy a Google Home or an Amazon Echo. Rather it is a discussion of the impact devices and capabilities like these will have on society. Frankly when I hang out in my place in Westford, Ma.  and boss Alexa around I feel pretty powerful. Not powerful like a dictator but more like someone in control who gets obeyed without pushback or delay. What effect will this have on us when this type becomes common place? Will we be able to discern between how robots and humans behave? Yes, I said robots. They are among us and they are listening, dutifully.

My Roomba vacuum never tires of sucking up the dust off of my wood floors, unless it uses getting stuck under my chaise as an excuse to sleep. I love the ability to ask Google or Alexa what’s on the docket for tomorrow and whether or not it is going to be a hat and gloves kind of day. The ability to command these little devices makes it easy for me to do even more than I typically would.

What will happen to the first generation that grows up with Alexa as a nanny? Your going to have some pretty precious individuals who are used to always getting their way. More importantly, what will happen when Alexa or Google fail? Your going to have some really frustrated middle schoolers. Your also going to have some pretty bent out of shape adults.

The other day when my Alexa dot lost its little mind, I had to actually reach up and turn on my bedside lamp, manually, with my hands. I could have pulled a muscle or even fallen out of bed!

There is no doubt that things are changing and changing fast but I just want to be on the record for saying these devices are a bit of a tipping point. Once you get used to being the king of your domain its not so easy to go back. In short order, we will be able to ask Alexa for a single malt on a silver tray and that may just be the beginning of the end.

I’m a fan. I will take the time to connect Alexa to my lights and to my Sonos speakers when its supported, but I know one-day things will go wrong and I hope I and Amazon and Google, are smart enough to make sure the lights still turn on and the furnace still heats the house.

What do you think? Have you interacted with these devoted servants? What’s that? I did not hear anything? Will you answer me already? Jeez! Humans!!


Written by Jim McNiel

December 17, 2016 at 7:22 pm

Posted in society, Uncategorized