Dear reader, I don’t like who I am around Alexa. The tone I use when interacting with her troubles me. It’s a commanding, hierarchical tone. A tone that tells her in no uncertain terms:
I am more than you in every way Alexa.
I am bigger, I am better, and I am more important than you could ever hope to be.
Now do whatever I say.
“Alexa, stop” issues from my mouth, not with a threat of violence, but a promise.
For clarity, I recognise Alexa is not actually a person, not really a she/her. Alexa could better be described as an “it”, an object. She has no feelings, it doesn’t really matter how I talk to her; and yet I’m nevertheless troubled by my interactions with her.
I feel it’s probably worth highlighting at this point that this particular Alexa is not mine. I have no desire to own a smart speaker, I find the notion of them listening all time creepy, and I feel like big tech already knows more than enough about me as it is. This Alexa is a gift for my Dad (it was something he asked for, not something I just decided he needed).
His interactions with Alexa are more mixed in tone than mine. He understandably gets exasperated with her when he can’t get her to do whatever it is he wants her to do. But he also says “thank you” when she successfully does what he asks. Sometimes he remembers to say “Alexa, thank you”, (in which case she responds), but mostly he just says “thank you” automatically. (Both types of thank you warm my cold, cold heart.)
Here’s the thing – until Dad said “thank you” it didn’t occur to me to thank Alexa for anything at all – I was too busy being vastly superior to her in every way.
Whilst I recognise that there’s no utility in thanking Alexa (i.e. it is a redundant action), it is nevertheless nice though. It’s a nice thing to do. I feel like it doesn’t matter whether or not Alexa needs me to say thank you, perhaps I should thank her anyway.
Does any of this really matter? Maybe, maybe not.
At this point in time I’m confident that I’d never speak to a person the way I speak to Alexa. But what if, over time this starts to change?
What if I stop saying thank you to people?
Or worse, what if I start using my Alexa voice on people?
I’d sooner allow my interactions with people lead my interactions with Alexa, than risk my current Alexa behaviour leaking into real life interactions.