The apartment has been empty all day. You’re grilling yourself a cheese sandwich and as you turn the stove off, a strange, muffled noise comes from the bedroom. It stops just as soon as it started, leaving an uneasy chill in your bones. Anxiety needles into your stomach as you step down the hallway, and flick the light on.
It’s empty. You breathe a sigh of relief, thankful there’s no need to lunge for the lamp to defend yourself against any possible murderers. Thinking that you may as well go eat your grilled cheese now, you turn around — and the laughter, much clearer now, rings out again.
“Hahaha!” Your Amazon Alexa giggles from behind your shoulder. “Ha! Ha! Ha!”
Somehow, this is worse than a possible murderer.
Amazon’s “intelligent personal assistant” Alexa can do all sorts of convenient things. Turn up the temperature in your house, play your dope wake-up beats in the morning or call your mother for you (though I don’t think Alexa can talk for you. Yet).
Alexa isn’t the first, or the only home assistant that stores all its data on a cloud — Alexa is, however, the house-robot currently laughing at its users while in “sleep mode.”
Yes, you heard right. Alexa the house-robot is straight up laughing at her users while she’s powered down, or when someone asks her to turn off the lights.
Convenience is great — but home assistant systems, such as Alexa and others like it, completely distort what “convenient” should actually mean. Moreover, there is apparently no limit to how “convenient” people want everything to be. But, I also think it’s worth mentioning that these attachments to convenience, whether they be through Alexa, iPhone or whatever else, could have devastating effects.
No, I’m not 100 percent certain that the popularization of “intelligent personal assistants” will lead to a massive robot uprising. However, could that option be on the table? You bet.
An issue I find more pressing is the fact that Alexa and other devices like her store all of your information on a “cloud,” which sounds pretty hack-able. If you don’t believe me, you can ask Jennifer Lawrence, who was hacked through her iCloud account in 2014 and subsequently had nude photos posted of her without her consent.
Despite the risk, the western world grows more and more infatuated with artificial intelligence, clouds and the many advances they can make through these innovations. However, one question begs to be asked: “At what point are our lives too convenient?”
Now, we’re living in an age where running water indoors and stable electricity is not considered a convenience, but a resource to be taken advantage of — a resource to be taken for granted. Some might contend that Alexa and other cloud-based services are a symbol of the future: true innovation, technological advancement and “The Jetsons.”
However, when the Puerto Rican people are still living without power in their homes as a result of Hurricane Maria, and when the people of Flint, Michigan still have lead in their water, I can’t help but feel like we’re becoming less like “The Jetsons” and more like “Wall-E.”
Amazon has already made a statement on the subject: “We are aware of this and hoping to fix it.” They didn’t actually say why Alexa was laughing, and while I’m not jumping the gun and asserting that Alexa has already reached God-tier and is sentient, I suspect that if she were sentient it would likely not be acknowledged by Amazon. At least not right away.
My hot take? Don’t let Alexa have the last laugh. Trash your “intelligent personal assistant” before she trashes you.