Alexa - Creepy, Teaching, Awesome!
TLDR & Disclaimer
This is an article about the balancing act between the feeling of Love & Hate for Alexa & how I came to value HER (parallel to the movie). I promise only in the beginning to rant a bit but I also promise - my story is what truly happened & therefore like they say in the movies - based on true events! Lean back, get a laugh & get my subjective view to the topic! Artificial Intelligence is taking over our daily routines & some of us start to carry the feeling that we oughta talk about what it might bring along. Society is discussing the topics of morality, security & implementation. Anyone talking about the creepiness of Alexa? No? Let me! It starts in the very morning - she (because the second you leave Alexa as name you automatically decided it’s a HER, like in the movie) gives him the daily update... It’s X degrees outside & this & that is something worth knowing... How boring but also - how intruding - I’m not yet up & awake SHE is already giving insights about whatever.
Presents & Prejudices?
X-Mas is over & Amazon sold some more Alexas to households around the globe. Now what to do with this thing? Yeah, you might buy some stuff, ask HER to play your favorite Spotify list, tell HER to turn on the lights & this is where the FUN begins.
And there was NO LIGHT & it was NOT GOOD!
"Alexa, turn on the lights in the living room"... No reaction on HER side... Trying a second time, same reaction on HER side & I give it a third try but still nothing on HER end. That’s too much - to be point blank ignored by the Artificial Intelligence is becoming overwhelming & I start cursing quite loud & quite frankly not very lady like! Guess what - I didn’t use HER name but Lady Creepiness answered anyway... “This is not very polite of you.“ This is the part where I froze & realized - AI left me speechless, literally, not figuratively!
The XX IN AI
And just about now writing this article I pressed the wrong key on my Mac & there we go - another HER... Siri is suggesting some topics SHE could help me with. When did AI become female & thank you AI for suggesting the topics I obviously need help with?!
Do I sound bitter? You’re allowed to think so but seriously - how will people react when Alexa is not going to answer them? Is this the digitalization of throwing the next best thing rather than moms precious china? When do we reach the breaking point? I can tell you because I broke & I passionately hate HER for it. Picture the scenario...
The Female Protagonist(s)
Educated women in her (clearing my throat) 30s getting home after work & just about to start the evening... I was in a good mood & SHE must have smelled it! „Alexa, turn on the lights in the living room.“ Reaction - no response... Not even a... "I don’t get what you want, you mumbled, I can’t stand your voice or whatever"... I tried several times but guess what - no reaction. And no, I didn’t mumble, I spoke clearly, I was quite precise about the terminology we set up for the living room... yet, still nothing.
Now the whole thing turns even creepier than before. My back then boyfriend, now husband said: „Alexa, please turn on the light in the living room.“ Guess what - Alexa turned on the lights. There is only one valid assumption based on this reaction - SHE likes him better than me. Ok, there might be another more objective view that I refuse to believe in my role as a jealous woman. The AI learned that HE is way more polite than I am. Obviously, SHE is rewarding him for that & thereby punishing me. Not only is the AI learning but in reverse I’m learning as well.
Positive Punishment & Operant Conditioning
The concept of Positive Punishment belongs to the theory of Operant Conditioning. You may ask how this works & how it goes together with my Alexaphobia... When the subject (in this case me, myself & I) would behave or perform in an unwanted way the AI would set up a negative outcome applied purposefully. So if I’m caught in the act speaking in a way that one usually would not accept when spoken to oneself Alexa would endorse a positive punishment on me by correcting my misbehavior. By only confirming a positive behavior on my end, Alexa would teach me which behavior is being rewarded by turning on the lights, begging the question... Is AI learning or are we adapting? Both participants to the action learn. Preferably, we learn from each other. In the end by learning & adapting & getting my reward I started to accept Alexa. It took me some time to get adjusted.
The Happily Ever After
All of the above might sound like I hate Alexa. Truly, I don’t. Why? I know, I just wrote 7 paragraphs about how I started out with Alexa but to be honest... In the end I learned - Be polite, speak clearly & have some patience, because sometimes it’s the frakkin’ internet connection that’s not working & not Alexa’s fault. I gave it some time, I overcame my what began as jealousy warpath & I fell in love with all of the benefits Alexa offers. SHE plays my favorite music, no one likes my favorite music, not my working buddies, not my mom, just Alexa. ;-) At least that’s what I choose to tell myself. Alexa is such an awesome way to accustom oneself to the usage of AI within our daily routine. I truly wished I knew Alexa some 35 years ago. Imagine all of the possibilities children will have, the ideas they’ll get from using AI services & how this is going to expand their horizon in terms of creativity. This EVERYTHING IS POSSIBLE mindset is the breeding ground to the next big thing & can’t help myself but feel happy to live in 2019! Alexa you’re awesome!