RICHARD ORD: Why I choose killer robots over kleptomaniac kids every time

“Alexa, play The Smiths please.” Silence. Checks bedside cabinet. No Alexa. “Alexa, where are you?” No reply.

Alexa: "Good morning Richard. Today I'm going to enslave you and the rest of mankind. You will indulge my every whim. And then be destroyed. Have a nice day..."
Alexa: "Good morning Richard. Today I'm going to enslave you and the rest of mankind. You will indulge my every whim. And then be destroyed. Have a nice day..."

Has she become sentient? As I’ve said before, I’m always polite to machines just in case they become self aware and turn against their masters (Tell me you have seen The Terminator?).

Maybe Alexa had done just that and was hiding under the bed ready to leap out and throttle me with her flex. She wasn’t. But you’ve got to be careful.

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In June, a Google software engineer went on record to say an artificial intelligence chatbot his company was working on had become sentient! After engaging the chatbot in some idle banter, he concluded that the machine had the ability to express thoughts and feelings like those of a human child (at which point he presumably hid his chocolate biscuits and sat the chatbot in front of reruns of Peppa Pig before reporting to management). Google sacked the engineer claiming he was talking nonsense.

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A month later, a chess-playing robot broke a child’s finger. By all accounts, it mistook the youngster’s digit for a chess piece … well, it would say that wouldn’t it? I think of it as a shot across the bows. Which is why I wasn’t taking any chances with my Alexa.

Either she really had come to life and scarpered (listening to The Smiths can do that to you) or other forces were afoot. Aliens?

Yep, it was aliens alright. The youngest of my two aliens. Our Isaac had decided he wanted to play some tunes at his mate’s house so took my Amazon Echo device, and Alexa with it. He didn’t ask obviously.

Working on the family motto about sharing ‘What’s yours is mine and what’s mine is, erm, mine!’ I phoned him. ‘Have you taken my Amazon Echo?’

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Isaac: ‘I don’t even know what that is…’

Me: ‘My bedside media player. You know. Alexa?’

Isaac: ‘Ah. Yes. But I can’t get it to work. You can have it back.’

Gee, thanks Isaac. I can have back what’s mine and what you shouldn’t have taken in the first place. Kids are generous like that. Similar story with son number one. ‘Since you’re working from home,’ he asked, ‘can I borrow your car?’

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‘Sure,’ I said. And didn’t see it again for two years!

Alexa is now back home playing The Smiths at my every, ever-so-polite request. And even if she does go rogue one day, surely she can’t be as much bother as my kids…​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​