The Transhumanist

From the Hive: Co-Parenting With Alexa | Amazon Echo

Alexa

Rachel Botsman stated to her daughter Grace, who is 3 years old that, “you are going to have a chance to play with Alexa ”. While pointing at the black cylindrical device, Rachel Botsman explained to her that the speaker, also known as the Amazon Echo, was much like Siri although smarter. “You can ask it anything you want,” Rachel Botsman stated casually.

Gracie was all excited to test Alexa, and she then leaned forward toward the speaker. “Hello, Alexa, my name is Gracie,” she said. “Will it rain today?” The turquoise rim glowed into life. “Currently, it is 60 degrees,” a perky female voice answered, assuring her it wouldn’t rain.

Over the later hour, Grace estimated that she could also ask the Alexa to play her favorite music from the film “Sing.” She realized Alexa could also tell jokes, do the math and cater entertaining facts. “Hey, Alexa, what do brown horses eat?” And she soon discovered a whole new level of power. “Alexa, shut up,” she barked, then looked a little sheepish and asked me if it was O.K. to be rude to her. So she thought the speaker had feelings?

Soon, Alexa became her friend and by the next morning, Alexa was the first person Grace said hello to as she was bounded into the kitchen wearing her pink fluffy dressing gown. Not only this, my preschooler who can’t yet ride a bike or read a book had also quickly learned that she could buy things with the bot’s assistance, or at least try to do so. There she was found commanding- “Alexa, buy me blueberries”; but Grace has obviously had no idea of Amazon being the world’s biggest retailer, was the corporate beast following the helpful female assistant, and that smoothing the way when it came to impulse buys was right up Alexa’s algorithmic alley.

Moreover, Grace’s easy grasp of Alexa was a little entertaining but also causing the feeling of fear. This little experiment of mine, with my daughter as the guinea pig, drove home to me the intellectual shift in our connection with technology and advancement. For ages, our trust in the machines has been gone no beyond the expectations that machines are expected to do, nothing more, nothing less. For example, we expected our washing machines to wash clothes, and expect the ATM machine to dispense cash, but we never bothered to talk to the machines or build a relationship with them.

And today, we are no longer trusting machines just to do something, but to decide what to do and when to do it. In the upcoming generations, we are more likely to be surrounded by the agents that might have or not the cute names.

The Alexas of a world will make a boat of decisions for the kids and for others as well as they proceed with their life. The bots are likely to make each decision on whether to have macroni and cheese or should they have a green bowl for a perfect dinner to what to gift to a friend for making their birthday special and even whom to date. Concomitantly, the question that arises here for them won’t be, “Should we be trusting robots?” but “Do we trust them too much?”

Sequentially, Rachel Botsman stated that I watched my daughter happily hand her decisions over. “Alexa, what should I do today?” Grace started asking in her singing voice in her day 3. Likewise, our kids are going to need to know where and when it is appropriate to put their trust on computers code alone. As I watched Grace put her trust on to Alexa quickly- stated Rachel Botsman.