Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) that is. A recent Gallup survey revealed that the vast majority of Americans expect A.I. to lead to joblessness in the coming decade, but few see it as coming to their own position. “Whether they know it or not, A.I. has moved into a big percent of Americans’ lives in one way or another already (Newport, Northeastern University, 2018).”
“Personal assistants” like Google Home or Amazon’s Alexa, as well as navigational apps, such as Google Maps, Waze and Apple Maps are used most widely among younger and more educated Americans. More than 90 percent of adults with at least a bachelor’s degree or between the ages of 18 and 35 used navigation apps, for example. Gallup’s report reflects only some of the findings of a large survey of nearly 3,300 Americans conducted in September an October of last year. The other findings, released in January, show that more than three in four Americans believe that A.I. will fundamentally change how the public lives and works in the coming decade.
About the same share expect A.I. to destroy more jobs than it creates, though only about one in four were worried about losing their own job?
This post is not meant to make you worry about all your digital assistants, but I guess the best advice is just to remind yourself that “somebody” or “something” else may be listening. But who really cares about all my mundane conversations in the privacy of my own home or someone else’s? Personally, I don’t have any state secrets to share, but it all does seem a little spooky to me. The again, why would you share you secrets with a talking machine?
Danny Hakim, in NY Times Sunday edition, put it this way: “At least I can take comfort that I’m not the only one who wonders about these things. In the past three years, the Better Business Bureau told me that it had received 9,876 complaints about Amazon.com. Seventy-nine were related to the Echo speaker, which features Alexa, and just a single one of these complaints mentioned privacy concerns.”
So why should I worry? Let’s face it, we may all be living in an era when our lives are an “open book,” or at least those parts we share with our digital assistants!
P.S. Please have a look at mypeacecorpsstory.com, podcast #018, where I discuss my “technology-free” Peace Corps years in India
What would we do without Alexa? She is so handy to have around the house, and doesn’t demand too much. Just a little electricity to keep her “turned on.” Now she can do even more. She may not be the only little device that can do all these tricks using voice commands to control light switches, thermostats and other smart home appliances, but she seems to be the most popular. And no new app is required in the case of turning the lights on and off, if you already have Alexa in your home.
Alexa and Ikea are now a couple and to work together all they really need are some voice-enabled light bulbs (you buy them). It’s almost like having a live-in pair who can answer questions for you, play music, and now, turn the lights on and off. The “marriage” of Alexa and Ikea is also a marketing boon for the smart home business. Amazon has said there have been “tens of millions of Alexa devices” sold, including various devices in Amazon’s Echo family of products and those from independent device makers as well. Smart home usage of various devices is growing rapidly.
Smart homes for smart people? It still might be fun to do these things ourselves. Maybe we will start having device-free days just to reminisce about the way life used to be.