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Friday, March 9, 2018

Amazon’s Alexa Battles The Human Soul: Will You Fight Back?



The only good thing to come from losing power as a result of a harsh Nor’easter this past weekend, was the inability of my family to communicate with Alexa, one of the most annoying inventions of the 21st Century.

Maybe I shouldn’t bash Alexa.  She was given as a present by some good friends.  They didn’t realize my contempt for this toy, but it is something that to me seems not only unnecessary, but intrusive.

What does Alexa do that your smart phone doesn’t?  Absolutely nothing.  This wasn’t a trick question.

Not only is it useless, or at best, a duplication of what’s in my pocket, it is intrusive. By speaking to it – and in return hearing a robotic voice – my home air feels polluted.  Its force of volume is invasive, protruding and encroaching upon my peace and quiet.

My kids love it.  My wife likes that it plays music. It’s in our kitchen where we already have a television, and a kitchen table to support laptops while one sits with a smart phone in hand.  We are on a gadget overload.

Who needs to talk to anyone anymore?  It isn’t ebooks that threaten paper books – it is overall technology and the distraction factor that piles up with the coming of things like Alexa.

Now call me a conspiracy nut, but I think Alexa is a big snitch. Not only does she track everything we ask her to search, I am sure she records us.  Amazon has replaced the government – along with Google, Apple, and Facebook – as Big Brother.

Think of it from the eyes of a sci-fi author.  Tell us a story about how people warmed to the idea of having bugging and tracking devices on their bodies and in their homes, gladly trading off their privacy for a chance to live in the future where communication flowed freely and quickly – and cheaply – across the globe.  But little did they know that their lives became slaves to technology and eventually their rights were trampled upon as the tech complex took their information and used it to ruin their lives.  Subtly, personal preferences became influenced by tech’s recommendations, personalized search results, and advertisers. We went from tech serving our needs and filling a void to creating new problems and using our preferences and information against us. We never saw it coming – and even when warned – we ignored anything that stood in the way of us getting what we thought we wanted. In the end, click by click, we lost ourselves, and our freedoms, privacy and even our free will. We are under attack, bombarded by tech manipulations to control us, sell to us, and as a result, brainwash us.

Alexa, I know you’re evil, but will anyone listen to me? I feel like I’m stuck in a 1950’s B-movie where a town is taken over by a mysterious force and yet no one listens to the sane person who sees what’s unfurling.  See Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Blob, and others.

Then again, maybe I over react.  Alexa seems friendly, almost human.  She has a person’s name and doesn’t sound like the dry robots who speak like a computer.  But let’s not kid ourselves.  She is not real.  She is an it, a piece of plastic and wires, an emissary of Amazon’s to take the world over, one household at a time.  It wants not to serve me, but to control me. She is doing it right before my eyes. She’s not sneaking into my room under the cover of darkness – she’s robbing my soul in broad daylight.

There is a place in the world for technology, but when it controls our choices, dictates our moves, influences our thoughts, and undermines our emotional state, we have to draw the line.  Or do we?

Should we just let as much technology into our lives as possible at any cost, for in the end, technology is expected to solve all of our problems – from wealth inequality to security to the environment? But tech solution to human problems may lead to greater human problems.
My generation, Gen X, the older part of it, can remember life without the Internet, smartphones, email, and a world consumed by its devices.  We are the last generation to grow up free of that stuff.  It’s up to us to protect the world we come from.

Others may scoff at my protestations. It’s something that should make people uncomfortable, the idea that in just a few short decades we allowed technology to take our lives over. It makes us less human, more android.  Combined with how tech-based medicines and surgical procedures reshape our bodies, we really are turning into cyborgs. There’s no turning back. We are now dependent on technology for everything.

Maybe that’s why I revel in the simplicity of reading a printed book, of turning a page and being exposed to the world of my own imagination. I have plenty of time in my day to click, search, and share my life online.  Paper books offer me a respite from everything else.

Alexa, I know what you are up to, but for now you are winning, taking over young minds and turning them into doing the bidding of the robots. The war against machines will not be waged with direct combat or missile systems.  It’s being conducted now, through wi-fi and the air around us, device by device, app by app, site by site. The digital bits chomp away at our human side, at the things that make us who we are.

Alexa is an innocent-looking mass murderer of our humanity, of what keeps us special and unique.  It will reduce us to button-pushing, voice-activated, click-hungry human bots, enslaved to predictable analytics and digital dementia.  

Alexa, can you please self-destruct?

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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2018. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by WinningWriters.com as a "best resource."

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