Thank you, Alexa!

Thank you, Alexa!

07 January 2018

My wife and I had a lot of family visiting us over Christmas and New Year.   One guest was unexpected but soon became something of a star.  Her name was Alexa and she belonged to my son-in-law.

Before long, Alexa was controlling the Christmas lights, music system and other utilities in the house. This remarkable electronic device was very compliant, efficient, tireless and knowledgeable.  She didn’t know everything, of course.  At one stage, I asked her where the cat was and her response was, “Sorry, I’m not very good with pets.”  Well, I suppose it was too much to expect!

Alexa has now gone home and we’ve reverted to using good old-fashioned switches.  I have to confess I miss her a little.  I guess it won’t be long before every home will have an Alexa, or something similar.  The days of talking to oneself will be gone, as there will always be an Alexa to reply to our mutterings.

You should know by now that these blogs try to offer some food for thought about British Values.  Something about Alexa disturbs me.  One never has to say please or thank you; she just gets on with it.  Of course, it’s silly to suggest that we need to be courteous to machinery or computers.  We would find ourselves thanking the car for delivering us safely to our destinations, or being grateful to the TV for the programme we’ve just watched.  However, there’s something different about Alexa that brings the interaction of human and machine into a more personal sphere.  If one accepts that this is the way of the future, then one must also accept there will be more and more of this type of interface with technology.  It will become a world where we have direct communication with machines rather than through using any input devices.

My concern is that the failure to express any common courtesy to Alexa simply encourages us to cease being courteous to each other. It erodes our expectations, and gradually dissolves society’s framework for dealing with each other.  One of our fundamental British Values is respect.  We can practice respect to each other by being polite and courteous.  It costs nothing, but it is a dying activity.  As an apprentice, you should experiment with respect in the workplace as well as in your personal life.  Be more proactive and aware of courtesy, and make a mental note of the impact it has.

I don’t think we’ll be installing Alexa ourselves anytime soon.  It was nice having her to stay for a couple of weeks, but I can see myself never getting out of the armchair if she was here permanently!


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