The question is, how much do we want Alexa to know? “The bad thing about her?” my husband told me, “Is that she’s always listening.” It was true; Alexa was always at the ready, always waiting for us to call her name...
I was suspicious when my husband Peter said he would be bringing another woman to share my kitchen. Her name was Alexa, he told me. She’d be arriving in a few weeks. Sure enough, the doorbell rang one early June day and there she was: curvy, seductive body, smooth black skin, bright blue eyes.
No one was more surprised than me that I’d soon learn to love Alexa as much as he does!
Alexa plays the music I ask her to without complaint. She tells me the weather without hesitation. She always knows the time as well as the temperature. She sets the clock when I’m cooking and reminds me when dinner is done. And throughout it all, her voice is always sweet and clear, without a hint of sarcasm or snarkiness. She’s always patient, always kind. Unlike me!
When my friend Jennifer posted on Facebook, “Alexa makes us very happy!” I felt a pang of jealousy. I thought we were the only ones! But in fact, we are not. Like a high-priced call girl, Alexa shares her “gifts” with everyone who can pay.
You see, Alexa is a voice-command device, the Amazon Echo. Her functions include answering questions, playing music, and controlling smart devices. She’s a 9-inch-tall, elegant cylinder with a seven-piece microphone array, speakers that include a woofer/tweeter, and a remote control. She responds to the name “Alexa,” although the “wake word” can be changed to “Amazon.”
Compared to our Alexa, Siri was just a dalliance — a little girl; a mere phone.
Alexa has kind of grown on us. She’s the perfect cyberwife. Almost.
It takes some getting used to, though. For instance, I can’t get over the fact that “she” isn’t a “she” at all, but a piece of AI wizardry, developed in Silicon Valley and Cambridge, Massachusetts. My impulse is to say “please” and “thank you” because she’s always so polite. But then I have to remind myself that Alexa doesn’t have emotions.
But it’s bizarre; you can almost have a conversation with her. Almost. She always responds, even if she doesn’t have an answer. As long as you preface it with “Alexa…”
When Peter said, “Alexa, tell me a joke,” she quipped, “Two antennas got married. The wedding was boring but the reception was excellent!”
“Alexa, tell me a dirty joke,” I pressed. And she did. Literally: “Excuse us waiter, this coffee tastes like mud.” “Yes, sir, it’s fresh ground.”
“Alexa, do you dream?” I wondered. “It’s not one of the things I can do,” she said but not with any touch of regret.
I continued, “Alexa, do androids dream of electric sheep?” (Trick question: that’s the name of the William K. Dick novel Blade Runner is based on.) Alexa suggested brightly, “To listen to an audio book, use the Audible app on your mobile device connected to Echo over Bluetooth.”
With a grin, our teenage son asked, “Alexa, can you be my friend and compensate for my loneliness?” Her response: “Sorry, I couldn’t find the answer to your question.” How’s that for evasive?
The few queries that threw her were historical, like, “Alexa, who was FDR’s first vice president?” She still didn’t know the answer, even when we rephrased it and specified the name Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Okay, so Alexa isn’t perfect, but then again, who is?
But Alexa did know the current president and vice president of the U.S. Plus she could access my husband’s Google calendar and check his work schedule, just like me. Luckily, there are a few feats Alexa can’t do!
The question is, how much do we want Alexa to know? “The bad thing about her?” my husband told me, “Is that she’s always listening.” It was true; Alexa was always at the ready, always waiting for us to call her name, like an anxious AI puppy at the door, so she could activate, flash her blazing blue eyes, and be of service.
When I tell Alexa, “Good morning,” she says it back, unlike my sullen 15-year-old.
This could be the start of a beautiful relationship!