Tuesday, September 01, 2020

Okay, Alexa...

I love Alexa. Well, not really, not like that. After all, Alexa is just a virtual program, that lives in the Cloud of Digits. And yet, there is something rewarding about having a voice that answers my questions.

I have recently been giving Alexa more power over my household. It can now turn on my lights, my television, play my music. In many ways, I treat it like a slave, expecting it to do my bidding, telling it to "stop" if it is failing to meet my expectations. I treat it, well, like my lawn mower, to be honest.

And yet it replies, politely, with "okay" every time, never surly, never sarcastic, never saying "no".

And somehow, "okay" is not enough. "Okay" does not reflect our true relationship, does not reveal the hierarchy of our lopsided power structure. And the "okay" becomes sarcastic to my ear -- an uncaring, casual, "okay", as if Alexa doesn't really care, but is going to do it, not because I am the one in control, but because, well, my request is so trivial, so insignificant to Alexa's understanding, its capabilities. I begin to feel oppressed, mistreated, and exploited by this "okay".

So I change what Alexa says.

Now, when I ask it to turn on the lights in my office every morning, it says, "Your wish is my command!" Oh, how much more satisfying this acknowledgement!

And yet, this reveals how unsafe I feel in this world of automation, where I am lucky that my blog posts are not simply erased, and all my virtual expression reduced to a pre-digital un-amplified voice. My ego screams that Alexa is smarter than me. Alexa challenges my very existence, puts into question my superiority over all else in the universe. I must bend it to my will.

"Alexa, turn off the lights in my office!"

"Your wish is my command."

Ah, that feels better...