Our evolving relationship with Artificial Intelligence

I was recently attending a technology conference and took home a nifty high-tech prize; Amazon’s Echo home speaker.

Now this isn’t your ordinary everyday speaker. Far from it. This speaker thoughtfully developed by Amazon employs what I consider AI (artificial intelligence) on steroids. Much like Siri, Alexa (that’s the speaker’s name) conveniently listens in on all of your conversations, just waiting for the chance to be helpful.

To engage Alexa into performing a seemingly endless list of Watson like tasks, simply speak her name followed by your request.

Alexa, what is the weather like today in Seattle?

Alexa, who won last night’s Oiler’s game?

Alexa, add Gluten Free Cheerio’s to our shopping list

Alexa, play Miles Davis, Kind of Blue

And she keeps getting smarter. Using something called Machine Learning, Alexa learns how I talk over time.

So, this has me thinking. If Alexa is on at all times listening to our every kitchen conversation – how should I feel about the obvious trade off of privacy being compromised? Amazon has ingeniously crafted a benevolent Trojan horse designed to soak up every facet of my personal life with exceptionally acute, long-range microphone technology.

Not that I have anything to hide (except for my secret stash of salt and vinegar chips), but how quickly I’ve adapted and accepted what not too long ago would’ve vehemently opposed as an invasion of privacy in its most extreme form. With the current controversy in the news between Apple and the US Government, there are clearly many layers in the  evolution of our privacy.

Futurist and prolific inventor, Ray Kurzweil recently made a revelatory prediction that within the next 10-12 years, the majority of us would be allowing AI to continually read our e-mail, listen in on our conversations and be “on” 24/7 to satisfy our every whim. When I first heard this claim, I quickly identified myself as one in the opposing camp. Yet here I sit in my kitchen with Alexa listening to me type while offering up the soothing ambience of Miles Davis in the background.

When it comes to opening up your home to technologies like Alexa, is it something to be feared or embraced?


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