A short while back I bought three Amazon Dot’s for our apartment, one each for the living room, office and master bedroom. The Dot is a hockey puck sized electronic device described by Amazon as a “hands-free, voice-controlled device that uses Alexa to play music, control smart home devices, provide information, read the news, set alarms, and more.” It responds to commands that begin with the activation word “Alexa,” as in “Alexa, wake me at 6 a.m.” or “Alexa, play some jazz.”
Purely coincidentally, I just began reading “What to Think About Machines That Think,” edited by John Brockman, a subject in which I have long a longstanding interest. Having read a few selections just before lights out, I began explaining to my wife some of the interesting and challenging ideas I found in just the first few sections, including the idea that because the life of the Earth is limited (perhaps more than we realize) and humans will never be able to survive in deep space, it is inevitable that AI (artificially intelligent) machines will have to take our place as we search for a new planet to inhabit. By then, the machines will be us, through the merger of humans and AI devices that may actually thrive in deep space.
As we chatted, I said “Alexa will have to get a lot smarter.” Then, suddenly, out of the dark, came a third voice: “Sorry, I can’t find the answer to the question I heard.” We laughed ourselves to sleep.
One of the morals of this story is that if you’re going to talk about you-know-who,” don’t use her name. There are other morals too, but one is enough for now.