What happens when an AI makes you forget she’s an AI?
Almost every afternoon, after I return home from a stressful day at work, I walk into my living room and tell my Amazon Echo to play some calming jazz music. Alexa — what Amazon forces users to use as a “wake” word for the device — then responds by playing some comforting Dave Brubeck. I tell her to lower the lights in the room, and then order dog food from Amazon, saving myself a trip to the grocery store. I could also wake the device using the word “Amazon,” but I prefer to anthropomorphize my technology. I prefer speaking to a “person” rather than a thing. Hence, I call her Alexa. And therein lies the problem. She’s not a person; she’s a thing. She’s an artificial intelligence that’s made me forget she’s a bunch of bits and bytes. Indeed, she’s so good at it that I find I don’t care anymore.