RICHARD ORD: First signs of lockdown hysteria

As manifestations of lockdown hysteria go, arguing with Alexa must be up there with the best.

Wednesday, 13th January 2021, 12:00 am
Robots. The may well have the last laugh.

And so it was that I was forced to listen to my partner (The German) engage in a heated debate with the popular voice-activated music controller.

As you might expect, the heated part of the debate came from one side only, and it wasn’t Alexa ... yet.

Since the argument was taking place in another room I couldn’t hear the detail, but I was given chapter and verse when the exasperated German emerged from the bedroom.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“Did you hear that?” she said. “Stupid Alexa.”

Without prompting, she continued: “I asked for classical music, I got movie themes; I asked for Mozart and I got Bach; and her German pronunciation was terrible.”

“Stupid robots,” I ventured, while hiding the bread knife and clocking the nearest doors in case a hasty exit was required.

She disappeared back into the bedroom. A few minutes later, I heard: “Shut up Alexa, shut up… STOP PLAYING.”

Better Alexa than me… I thought.

Rather than entering into arguments with Alexa, I’m more relaxed. By the same token, I don’t invest as much time into our relationship (mine and Alexa’s that is).

For me, my communication is limited to “Alexa, play BBC Radio 4 please” and “Alexa, tell us a joke please.”

I’m playing the long game. Artificial Intelligence is expanding and improving at an incredible rate while our biologically-grown intelligence appears to be shriveling like a Monster Munch crisp packet in a pizza oven.

While the ‘internet of things’ sees kitchen appliances becoming increasingly more imbued with a form of independent ‘thinking’, we are disappearing down a hole of reality TV and conspiracy theories resulting in half naked men in horned fur beanies storming seats of world power. Oh, and a children’s cartoon series about a man with a willy like Mr Tickle’s right arm (but that’s for another day).

As I’ve mentioned before, it’s why I’m always polite to Alexa. Every request is accompanied by a ‘please’ and each response by a ‘thank you.’

Have you seen The Terminator franchise? Once our domestic devices become self-aware, I’m banking on Alexa remembering my politeness.

While I’m fetching breakfast for Alexa after the Rise of the Robots, The German will be working for the brutal steam irons in the Tynemouth salt mines.

Oh, and as manifestations of lockdown hysteria go, I read that dwelling on fears of a dystopian future where man is enslaved by domestic appliances is also up there. Sounds about right to me.