Like most middle-aged guys, I’m big on technology.
All my TVs are flat widescreens attached to the wall. I have an iPhone, iPad and a Kindle. The radio in my car has something called Apple Play that turns the radio into my phone, meaning I will never have a wreck again!
Well, at least not while talking on the phone.
And, I get a lot of use out of all them. They weren’t cheap, though they were all bought at separate times and each was paid for before the next was purchased. Technology can make me giddy, but it has yet to make me stupid.
But one thing I can’t really get going with is the voice activated assistants. You know, Alexa from Amazon, Google Home Assistant, Siri on the Apple devices. I have an Alexa, and Siri came packaged with the iPhone and iPad, but I suspect they’ve all packed up and went looking for work elsewhere.
They’re all designed to make certain aspects of life as easy as possible. You just ask them a question, or make a request, and they give you an answer as best they can. My conversations with Alexa have been asking her to play a song once every two or three months. My only interaction with Siri has been to tell her to shut up when she suddenly starts reading me a text message or asking me who I want to call.
And no, it’s not because I’m a cranky, old man who thinks it’s none of Siri’s business who I want to call.
I can’t think of anything to ask them. Sometimes, when I’m alone at the house, I’ll think I need to get some use out of that Alexa. Have her play a song and to crank it loud so I can pretend I’m young and still matter.
But nothing will come to me. All I can think of are songs I don’t really want to hear. My mother never has this problem, because she always says the same thing. “Alexa, play Conway Twitty.” So, I have a digital assistant whose main task has been to play the music of a man who has been dead for 26 years.
But maybe that’s for the best. A recent Bloomberg story said Amazon, through Alexa, actually listens to what you say. They’re doing this, they say, so Alexa can learn human speech patterns and interact even better with you.
This is how it was put in the story: “The team (of listeners) comprises a mix of contractors and full-time Amazon employees who work in outposts from Boston to Costa Rica, India and Romania, according to the people, who signed nondisclosure agreements barring them from speaking publicly about the program. They work nine hours a day, with each reviewer parsing as many as 1,000 audio clips per shift, according to two workers based at Amazon’s Bucharest office, which takes up the top three floors of the Globalworth building in the Romanian capital’s up-and-coming Pipera district.”
My first thought was that must be the most boring job on the planet. Nine hours spent listening to people ask what time a movie starts, how much something costs or requesting a song and then having to hear them sing along with it?
But questions have been raised about whether or not Amazon is listening even when you’re not talking to Alexa, how many powerful people have one and could Alexa be used as a spying device?
Amazon has admitted that Alexa is always listening, but it’s listening for its trigger word, which is Alexa. Like Siri’s trigger word is Siri and Google’s is Hey, Google. Google stuff always makes you work harder than Apple or Amazon.
What you believe depends on how paranoid you are, I guess. I’m not paranoid at all because I know I don’t have the slightest importance to the world at large. I would love to be controversial and have the world dig for every word I’ve ever written to see what horrible things I believe. But, alas.
Some people believe their secrets, whatever they are, should not be known by anyone and if they are exposed it will mean the end of the world. I realize that we’re all going to be dead one day and completely forgotten, so what exactly are we worried about people finding out?
Maybe Alexa can help me out with that question.