We just got an Amazon Echo over the holidays. It’s a tall, black wireless speaker that accepts voice commands through a 7-microphone setup and currently responds to “Alexa” (“Amazon” is the only other choice right now). Reminded me of that tall block tower in 2001: A Space Odyssey. It matches TV designs and other devices, so the functional design tries to prompt the users to, well, use it. My main purpose is to give our household a helping/free hand for homeschooling work (research methods, planning, exploration, etc.).
This morning I thought about how this device could solve one of my pet peeves – being asked basic questions that can be answered by standard posted resources nearby (e.g. what time is it? (look at the clock in the next room!), what day is it? (Ah! Look at the calendar; it’s right there!, etc.). I thought ‘I’ll just tell them to “Ask Alexa” then I won’t have to answer that annoying question anymore.’
Then I thought about how that would likely hurt my relationships. I may find those questions annoying, but the person asking really wants to know and I can wisk away my selfish desires to fulfill their needs, which is a common life mantra. God’s helped me grow my sensitivity/helping skills over the years and this step takes me further towards His ways, which I’m thankful for.
We have gotten so much laughter from our ‘Echo’ interactions mainly from the voice recognition when we stumble and don’t pronounce the words well or mix them out of order. These interactions have taught us to laugh at ourselves more and be aware of our communication deliveries.
Is the Echo just another warm-up for constantly talking to robots? We already do that on the phone enough. The name itself evokes the relationship that if we yell into the vast cavern of media that a voice will actually answer back (not always the case on social media). Media marketers always seem to incorporate that base action that we don’t think to actually do anymore, but is still universally understood.
That familiar ‘what are we doing this for?’ always has me questioning some key elements of my life and our Echo journey is no different. Instead of criticizing I’m exploring. It’s hard to turn off those analytical functions sometimes, but it’s been an interesting and, I believe, healthy journey.
In mid-2001, I remember typing a couple questions in the text box for the artificial intelligence film A.I., directed by Steven Spielberg, for fun that sought insight to deeper issue of our lives and the human condition. I continually turn towards God for those questions while humbly admitting I will never know and do not need to know many of those questions instead of expecting a return echo as I yell into a vast media cavern expecting some epic, life-changing answer.