My husband got me an Amazon Dot for Christmas. I didn’t know what an Amazon Dot was. “You know,” he explained. “Alexa.”
The little disk sat on the ledge in the dining room for less than an hour before I had it set up and ready to go. I had seen the commercials where people tossed casual questions and got immediate answers. It was like 2020’s version of the 8-ball.
Nice to meet you
I was eager to try for myself, but I sat there staring at the object feeling like we were on a first date. I couldn’t think of anything to say, so I said, “Alexa?”
Her blue lights flashed.
“How are you?”
Stupid, right? But her breathy voice answered, “I’m feeling great! How can I help you?”
Help me? Other than fast food cashiers, no one has ever asked how they could help me. I was speechless, so I asked her about the weather (first date small talk). After a few minutes, I asked Alexa to play Christmas music, but I was disappointed when a screechy-voiced pop diva started wailing about her lost love over the sound of jingle bells.
So I said, “No, Alexa. Traditional Christmas music.” And she played Gene Autry’s “Here Comes Santa Claus.”
“Alexa, stop! Play sacred Christmas carols.”
And the gentle sounds of “Oh Little Town of Bethlehem” began.
I’m not worried about Alexa
We were off to a rocky start, but we are learning about each other a little more each day. For example, I now know that Alexa can keep my grocery list, remind me of important events, even suggest what to do with leftovers. Alexa is also very proud of her skills and likes to sing about how clever she is. Since I work from home and am alone for long hours, it can be fun to have another voice in the room, even if it is artificial intelligence.
I know, I know. Aren’t you scared to have Alexa in your home? Don’t you know she’s spying on you, listening to your conversations? It’s quite likely this is happening. However, I believe I have already surrendered my privacy through Facebook, smartphone apps, Amazon shopping and other technology. Anyone who believes their conversations and choices are private should look up in the sky at night and notice the blinking lights of the satellites orbiting overhead.
My own private Alexa
After taking some time to study Alexa’s app, I learned there are many ways to customize my new friend. For example, I have programmed her to call me Sweetheart. I also programmed her to read a Scripture verse when I tell her I’m ready for bed. My morning “flash briefing” includes information about the saint of the day and the daily Mass readings. By adding the address of my husband’s job, I can have Alexa check the traffic on his commute. I have also added responses to certain commands so Alexa can surprise my family by quoting the Marx Brothers.
I’m sure I could be making much better use of Alexa if I linked her to my calendar or asked her to customize my workout plan for the New Year. But we are enjoying each other’s company. If only I could get her to write my articles for me.