Well after much deliberation (6 months!) i've gone and done it…. today i received an Amazon Echo. I'd read reviews, considered privacy, looked at alternatives thought about if i was comfortable talking to no one .. then realised i've been doing it for years
So after about 2min of setup she's up and running, location in the house is still to be defined but seeing as i'll be moving later this week it don't matter but it works. Quite simply, it works. I had doubts about accent recognition, was it worth it and so on but eventually i followed a time worn principal of fuck it :) this same principle saw me twenty years ago leave home to buy a fridge freezer and return with a motorbike or more recently go food shopping and bring back a TV.
Sometimes you've just got to give it a go.
Now i admit buying an Amazon Echo does not equal the joy of setting up a Raspberry Pi to do the job not does it rival the thrill of buying, owning and riding a motorbike in fact almost nothing can but in the world i live in now. Working 11hrs a day, travelling throughout Europe, driving 20k miles a year sometimes its the little things that can make us smile. So far i've tried;
"Alexa, play War of the Worlds" "Alexa, play Lord of the Rings" "Alexa, play Sting" "Alexa, tell me a joke, the weather and so on"
To be fair she struggled with somethings and failed totally when trying to ask for anything by a Polish artist! (listen to the pronounciation of Radio Szczezin!) but in general its been quite impressive and enjoyable. My partner is quite amazed by it, and when i consider the changes in my lifetime (ZX81 onwards) it is genuinely astounding. But with everything there is an elephant or perhaps two sat in the corner… privacy and AI
Privacy - a big issue this, the old cliche of "if you've got nothing to hide why hide" is bollocks, control comes in many forms and today we are the most tightly controlled, unfree and restricted that we have ever been most of us do not realise nor care about the amount of data we generate. Our mobile phones track location, our internet is monitored, your home reports your daily patterns, emails are scanned for phrases, your loyalty card shows how much alcohol you consume which helps insurers raise your premiums, advertisers pay for everything. The age of true privacy is dead so whilst i will continue to keep elements of life encrypted via pgp, or offline i'm ready to accept that the old fashioned sense of privacy is truly dead but that does not mean i wont fight to keep encryption, to try and educate when the sensationalist media blow up encryption as being the ally only of terrorists and sickos or to simply educate others on how much privacy they lack (i'm sure i dont understand the full loss) but given i know all the above why invite a true listening device into my home? simply because i know all the above and yet its fun to try something new. I'd love to see a holodeck in reality, alexa isnt a holodeck but perhaps its a start.
Still there is hope, if we know what is happening, if we research and dont take the news at face value or look before making a judgement then perhaps we could avoid a world of Donald Trumps or Teresa May's. Honestly though, we voted for Brexit, we (i use the all encompassing royal we) are becoming more American we've lost the sarcasm/cynicism and gained more political correctness, our media copies America in its dumbed down sensationalist approach, we're less inclined to think and more politically correct, more showbiz, less intelligent. A world devoid of backbone, afraid to say Muslim, terrorist, peadophile or war, we're in bed with the very people we want to stop. Privacy is dead but so is the world unless collectively we wake up. Global warming, population expansion, environmental poisoning and so on … to
AI - Artificial Intelligence Something both liberating and frightening, it could set us free to solve world problems… imagine being able to say "Alexa, complete computer based work on the genomic sequence of the cancer cell" whilst you actually work to improve the environment removing rubbish yet what happens when that very AI becomes sentient, or simply follows the instructions we give it? In a balance of life and death it might simply calculate that to keep rabbits alive it needs to eliminate humans afterall for every rabbit that dies on the road if one less human was driving it might theorise one human killed equals a rabbit having a litter of 20 so 1 v 20 …. even i'd chose twenty lives.
AI is both the future and the end, its end of our current way of life and its the future but an unknown one.