“Alexa, play ‘Party Rock’ please,” said my daughter. Immediately the little black cylinder on the breakfast bar lit up in blue and started emitting — or spitting … The song sounds like drunken cats mewing — music into my living room.
This is the future. Our voice-activated devices do what we want. Our houses are automated and our revolutionary machines are at our every beck and call. They do fantastic, incredible things … like repeat the “Party Rock Anthem” over and over until my brain becomes tapioca pudding.
It was followed by me yelling over the surging music and frantic dancing: “Hey y’all, I’m gonna’ go outside and set some rat traps in the chicken run.”
I was transported from the future to 1886. The voice-activated, revolutionary device snickered at me. I was about to use something that doesn’t listen, even though I begged it not to snap my finger off. I baited it with chicken kibble and ran screaming for the door.
This is my life. Where high tech and low tech collide. Future-man and old timey farmhand rolled into one. How did it come to this?
The little black cylinder arrived for Christmas. It’s an Amazon Echo that goes by the name “Alexa.” Part music player, part personal assistant, she will tell jokes when you ask her, give the weather, advise on stock picks, predict presidential elections and pretty much mishear everything I say.
“Alexa, please play traditional jazz,” I tell her. She replies, “Playing classic Indian waltzes.”
My family has deep, philosophical debates about whether we should talk sternly to her, or whether we have to say “please?”
The future is a strange place.
Not to mention the other concerns. Like if she’s recording everything we say and sharing it. Important things like personal information and how my wife and I fight over whether grits are an essential food group.
Will she turn against us — like HAL in “2001: A Space Odyssey?” Shut off our life support? (Forget that we don’t have life support. It’s the future! ANYTHING can happen.)
So many things to think and worry about, all so we don’t have to walk over and turn up the music.
It makes my work out in the chicken run all the more jarring — a time warp from one extreme to the other — and at the same time a relief. I can’t tell if I feel silly for having to use these antiquated, low-tech traps, or find them a welcome escape from the constantly evolving high-tech world.
A little of both, probably.
As I walk back inside, I fight the urge to sternly say: “Alexa, never play ‘Party Rock’ again, and PLEASE take care of those vermin for me.”
But I know I would just hear: “Repeating ‘Party Rock’ and emailing the world that you have rats in your chicken run.”