We appear to continuously experience advancements, in a never-ending [and, especially commercial], mission, to provide new convenience, for the enhancement of every- day living. Many marvelous developments, [ most especially, in the area of digital electronics], empower the individual with newly developed capabilities, many of which were delighted in, at their innovative arrival, and novel employment, but thereafter, regretted, following their experiential use.
Readers of plinyblog.com, will be familiar with our unshakeable view, concerning the substitution, of natural human conversation, in person, or by traditional telephone, for absentee, hand-held electronics. We have enumerated, the felt, accumulated losses to humanity, effected by the substitution of impersonal, data-like images, transmitted to small, lighted, screens, of the hand- held appliance, for the natural assurance and personal pleasure of the familiar voice and spontaneous, nuanced response. The general public, especially, its younger population, are, gradually, becoming unfamiliar with the benefits of warm, interpersonal exchanges of nuanced feelings and opinions, between recognizable parties, and, the many pleasures of spontaneously, experienced conversation.
Man’s lifestyle has, to our perception, become, noticeably, technical, rather than aesthetic, and more impersonal, rather than fulfilling, by reason of this regrettable mechanization of basic, human interaction. At a time when sincere intimacy, is, both, prized, and desperately needed, it has, mechanically diluted the valuable essence of the naturally needed, interactive experience, by the substitution of electronic, data-like symbols, for spoken words and personal interaction. The social and cultural progress of humanity, has been hobbled, and has been, steadily, tending toward a solitary experience, as opposed to a mutually, shared enterprise. Those who persistently, choose to praise the ease and convenience of electronic transmission of thoughts and feelings, may not have a clear recollection, or accurate appreciation, of their devastating loss. We are, instinctively, troubled by the phenomenon of impersonality, inherent in the use of human electronic, social interaction; and are, disturbed, by the new appearance of a non-human, robot-like electronic, “echo” technology, (“ALEXA”), dealt with below.
This age of purported, “life enhancing” (yet poorly conceived), scientific “breakthroughs”, has long predated electrical communication by way of “smartphones.” The development, and wide-spread commercialization of a miraculous, heat, electricity and fire resistant, product, called, “asbestos,” was so innovative and successful, that it was ubiquitously used, from 1930 to 1977, in all building construction, tools and general equipment, paint and household kitchen utensils. Asbestos was later found to be a carcinogenic substance, capable and empirically responsible, for the causing of mesothelioma. Since such discovery, in the late 70’s, all human society has, not only proscribed its use, but has been, legally and futilely, attempting, yet unable, to eliminate it completely, from the environment. An identically tragic, dilemma, is found in the current, desperate, attempt to eliminate lead; once thought to be a miraculous addition to paint (for the acceleration of drying, maintenance of “fresh” appearance and resistance to moisture), and which is now been shown to cause illness and mental retardation.
A truly illustrative example, of an asserted, miraculous, scientific, break-through, which, at the time of its initial development, in the 1940’s, was universally hailed, as an epochal advance, in the important world of American agriculture. The invention and liberal use of “DDT,” was the scientifically proclaimed, fool-proof, 100% effective, pest control savior, of the country’s crops and produce. The use of DDT, not very long thereafter, was officially, declared to be legally, banned due to its wide spectrum of deleterious effects upon human life and health. It was revealed, that this highly poisonous substance, actually accumulated, as a latent ingredient, in farm products, and as well, in human beings.
So, we are again, troubled, about a new and societally altering, “advance,” called “echo technology;” one of the Amazon family of profitable, life intrusive, electronic products. Indeed, we have just recently, experienced a recent, and astonishing practical demonstration of its [questionable] use and unwavering, robotic efficiency.
Please note, that we are not, eternally, in opposition, to all elective developments, which assist the consumer in his desire to reduce his physical activity. We have never, for example, castigated the couch-potato-inducing, “remote”, for changing channels, or the volume, on television; this, despite the fact that some health benefits might be seen to accrue, in the exercise involved, in, actually standing up from the viewer’s soft- padded perch, and taking a few steps to terminate, or change the presenting program.
Initially, we would caution all parents against naming their newborn daughter the (attractive) name, “ALEXA.” It seems that this newest miraculous advance, requires, for its initiation, the mere recitation of that name, before a command, to cause things electronic, to happen. Almost every gadget, clock, television set, radio, alarm clock and alarm system, lock, telephone, electric appliance, music system, electric utensil, weather instrument, oven and cooking apparatus, toaster, house lights, vacuum cleaner, digital reader, computer, watering device, and anything in the known world, containing an electronic “on” and “off,” facility, can be started, halted, or adjusted, with the recitation of the sound, “ALEXA,” as the first word of a chosen command. “ALEXA” also answers questions, selects the genre of music, on request, advises the name of the musical selection, the orchestra, and if so commanded, ALEXA will advise the identities of the conductor and the performing artist. ALEXA can play any requested genre of music, and when driving, can report on the weather, and check on the security of your home. Alexa can remind you of forgotten shopping needs, and, answer most reasonable questions; except, about “ALEXA”. Any inexperienced person, calling out to someone, perhaps, a child, by that distinctive name, is liable to experience a sudden groundswell of active response, from a vacuum cleaner, eggbeater, fire alarm or electric razor.
We can presently, see little of redeeming, practical value in this robotic command service, nor, as eternally, is the case, foresee what downsides may later, be revealed. But, what possible feeling, of majesty or august power, can be derived from turning on the electric broom, from across the room, remotely, turning out the light in the bathroom, or activating the electric toothbrush from the dining room? The acts of activating the coffee maker, turning on the dishwasher, or, switching on the reading light, do not, require Herculean strength or courage. In any case, we will, again, candidly, confess to our general, empirical distaste, for all non-human, electronic communications, targeted to humans, presently, inclusive of our new, but, definitely, uninvited, electronic, guest, “ALEXA.”
We do, however, choose to reserve one, single, exception: If stating “ALEXA,” had the facility to affirmatively bring about an effective response, to the specific, command, “Impeach Trump”, we might find our way, to ascertaining some redeeming value, to this nonsensical exercise.