Tuesday, January 21, 2020 -
Print Edition


I’m sure I’m not the only person disturbed by the TV ads for intelligent personal assistants like Alexa. I will admit, the ads are humorous, but like so much of the new intuitive technology, the shine wears off if one spends even a moment thinking about what one is relinquishing in exchange for the exciting new toy.

Ironically, by choosing the intelligent device, one is choosing to dumb oneself down. Not to mention, abandonment of privacy, creativity and adventure.

For example: In one ad, to calculate the number of birthday candles for an older friend, Alexa is asked a simple arithmetic question. This is intelligence?

Another example: A cute dad and daughter dancing moment. “Alexa, play swing music.” Not even, “Alexa, play a Benny Goodman or Louis Prima tune.” No excitement of picking a song or introducing one’s child to musical artists. Just a mundane request for “swing” music.

As I’m watching these ads, alternative somewhat absurd questions pop into my mind, the types of requests that will come soon enough, when we’ve lost all ability to think and do anything for ourselves. Such as: “Alexa, what do I do if I’m held at gunpoint?” Or, “Alexa, why can’t I do anything for myself?” Or, “Alexa, I’m stuck on a country road with no map or internet connection. How do I access you?”

As the “intelligent personal assistants” get smarter, we’re colluding in our growing collective idiocy. Sometimes, it feels like we’re headed for an H.G. Wells dystopia.

Shana Goldberg may be reached at shana@ijn.com.

Shana Goldberg

IJN Assistant Publisher | shana@ijn.com

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