All technology has been greeted with skepticism and disbelief upon its introduction. Sometimes this initial reaction can include fear, paranoia, and anger.
The introduction and subsequent proliferation of digital assistants like Alexa, Cortana, Google, and Siri are no exceptions to this as history does what it does often … repeats itself.
All of these things, like much of the technology we use, harkens back to Star Trek. Remember the tablets they handed to each other and the round flat storage media they put into devices or the communicators? Or remember when Kirk directly talked to the ship's computer? That was the origin of voice-activated virtual assistants.
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Even though it took reality 5 decades to catch up with science fiction when it did it took us by storm. These things that we had not heard of were embraced by many and let into the most private parts of our lives.
We now pass multiple open mics daily and have private conversations within “earshot” of them. It wasn't enough we carried the things with us in the form of a phone. Now they’re in the house.
While there are obviously privacy concerns with these devices let me first state they have amazing potential to help the disabled and augment communication and bring the wisdom of the world to people inexpensively and equally. They give us the oracle at Delphi, the Library of Congress, all the music you can imagine, and more knowledge at the tip of our tongues.
Now before I give anything negative let me state I use these things.
While I am a skeptic and have concerns I am also easily seduced by low-cost useful tools that function and appear as if they are magical. Alexa seduced me. The last box that had that effect was the microwave oven and I can say thousands of uses later our relationship is still going strong.
When working I can minimize my screen time by using Alexa to do math problems, spell words, give definitions, find stats and more. I can do all of this without leaving the screen I'm typing on which is important to me. I’ve found when I leave I tend to get lost in the abyss of the web so staying focused is helpful.
The bad part is the clear privacy concerns. Let me tell you that if you’re concerned about your privacy it’s already too late.
Unless you've been in a crystal sarcophagus your privacy has already potentially been compromised. Even without a phone, if you've used Google or Facebook then private data about your actions and your interests have been generated and cataloged. If you’ve taken every precaution possible that is great but has everyone you have communicated with done the same? If they haven’t then you’re at risk of being compromised.
The only thing I’ve found peace with is that there is simply too much info being generated to be monitored.
To effectively monitor all of the data being generated half of us would have to monitor in real-time and then we switch off and the other half monitors. It’s just unrealistic.
The bottom line is that most of us are just too boring for anyone to care to listen.
That being said … be safe and responsible with all technology and take precautions that make you comfortable if you’re going to bring any of it into your life. Be informed and make smart choices.
Technology serves us not the other way around.
Should You Get a Voice Search Activated Device?
• Cheap (as low as $19)
• Easy to use (slight learning curve for expanded use)
• Uses existing internet access
• No monthly fee for basic use
• Frees up you hands if you’re working on other things
• Helps people that are disabled have access to the world easily
• Privacy is a concern
• Used wrong can make someone lazy
• Can impact communication skills negatively