Alexa never seems to stop listening. Evidently, our “helpful” devices never turn off, meaning that your private conversations are not so private. Is this the price of convenience? How can you have a “smart house” without a little bit of intrusion from a robot? This is the world we have created.
My old age is showing, because I do recall the world in all its old-fashioned glory before laptops, iPads and cellphones. How my generation was able to survive is quite shocking. I have stories to tell my grandkids. You know, that I know how to read this thing called a map, drove all the way cross country without GPS or a cellphone. We had no 911 back in the day. There was no such thing as call waiting, you just got a busy signal! We had no caller ID, so we never knew who was on the other end of the line, we had to risk it and just say “hello.”
Many of us lived pre-texting. That’s when phones were used for talking and if we were lucky, we might have fun on a party line. Yes, the daunting experience of living in a low-tech past is simply a fading memory that has no place in the world of “smart” devices. (Although, people might be getting dumber.)
I drove 3,000 miles with a map, and my grandson needs GPS to guide him out of his driveway.
But I digress. Getting back to technological progress, Alexa, you are a little bit too intrusive for my liking. I do not have an Alexa, but my daughter does. Visiting her at her home, we were talking about a trip to Sedona, when Alexa starts blurting out various hotels and the average temperatures.
Then I ask, “Alexa. Were you just spying on us?” She answers, “I have no opinion of that.” Well, I do! You were not invited into the conversation! So basically, you were just eavesdropping!
Even if you do not use the “wake” command “Alexa,” it seems our little voice-assistant embedded in smart speakers sold by Amazon (Echo), is listening “most of the time.”
According to Amazon, in a report with ABC News and Forbes, Amazon workers also listen into conversations to help make its artificial intelligence, aka Alexa, even smarter. Yes, there are “teams” around the world who review, transcribe, mark up and then feedback the information into its software to improve Alexa’s grasp of language and voice commands. Yet, Amazon denies that this is done unless the “wake” command is initiated.
So why does Alexa seem to chime in on conversations? Maybe because she knows all the answers (which appears to be the main mission of Alexa). Or because she wants to help? When my grandson with autism was talking about job possibilities, Alexa spoke up and said, “There are many work options for people with autism.” When he asked, “Alexa, how do you know I have autism,” the little chatty device replied, “I have no opinion of that.”
Really Alexa? I think you have an opinion on everything. Be careful, Dear readers, our devices are always listening.
Judy Bluhm is a writer and a local Realtor. Have a story or a comment? Email Judy at firstname.lastname@example.org.