Random thoughts - Alexa and AI
August 17th, 2018, 2:20 pm

Someone got me an Echo device, a gadget from Amazon equipped with the digital assistant known as Alexa. It's a cute thing, as you can see. I work in AI and I love technology, so the gift was definitely spot-on. I turned it on, set it up (it was a breeze, which is a plus), and started using it. I asked Alexa about the weather, moved on to playing music and had some fun asking for word definitions or basic calculations. My wife surprised me by setting up romantic reminders, so that I would hear Alexa telling me "I'm reminding you: I love you" out of the blue. I figured out how to listen to the news and even found out that if you wish Alexa goodnight, it will sweetly reply "Sweet dreams!" It was charming while it lasted.

I made the "mistake" of looking at it for longer than a minute or two. While most of the time you can see a clock on the device, the image shifts to suggestions about what you can ask Alexa and that's when I could smell the roses, or rather, the stench of mainstream "culture". It was like looking at a tabloid relentlessly vomiting stories about untalented, useless people like the queen of England or the Kardashians. So, I unplugged the device and deleted the app. My wife convinced me to turn it back on, on the condition that it would face the wall, so I wouldn't see that crap anymore. Should I ask questions about things I care about? Would that help the device learn more about me and provide personalized content? Maybe so, maybe not. I still don't give a rat's ass about it and I've ignored it for days. Even my wife has stopped using it, at least as far as I know, since it's no longer sending reminders or playing music she selects.

I have a minor spoiler for you: Alex/Sekhmet will deal with a digital assistant, which will be similar to Alexa minus the mainstream bullshit. She will also have a hard time with it, but she won't be able to fully ignore it, poor her. I know the day we won't be able to trash these things (when proved annoying and/or useless) is very close, and that is a real concern. My only hope is that we'll wake up sooner than later and at least make sure that personalization of these things is very fast and doesn't assume everyone should hear about the latest fashionable pop mass stupidity. Technology should help us with actual tasks and not rule our lives or plunge us into idiocy. Which reminds me of social media, but that's a topic for another day.