Are AI Assistants, Like Amazon’s ‘Alexa’, Making us Too Lazy?

amazon's alexa
Via: Verge

Long gone are the days of having to open the front door, or even turn on the television, to check the weather before getting your day started. I don’t even have to look at the bright light of my phone anymore.

When I wake up in the morning, I admit, I take full advantage of my ability to roll over and ask my Amazon ‘Alexa’ what the weather is going to be like that day. Her voice is soothing, she gets straight to point, and I get the info I need without lifting a finger – or even taking my head off the pillow.

We are able to take advantage of Artificial Intelligence (AI) assistants like Amazon’s ‘Alexa’, but at what cost? Are we growing too dependent on AI? Are machines like ‘Alexa’ going to cause the old-school ways of research, whether online or through reading books, become obsolete?

Is AI Taking Advantage of Our Lack of Focus?

Since the year 2000, we have learned that our attention spans, as a whole, have depleted from 12 second to 8 seconds. The success of apps like Snapchat, is partly due to their ability to tap into this short-span data.

Companies like Amazon are beginning to take advantage of our laziness as well. Other than answering simple questions, ‘Alexa’ is able to assist with tasks like adding things to my cart on Amazon using only my voice.

There are also third-party extensions that sync with ‘Alexa’ to perform tasks around the home such as turning the lights on and off, changing the temperature on the thermostat, etc.

Children are also able to use ‘Alexa’ to ask research questions, which is where things get complicated. Many parents have admitted to having to limit their children’s time with ‘Alexa’ so they don’t become dependent on using the device for schoolwork.

While AI gives kids ease-of-access, as opposed to having to search for a book for information, studies show that we may not retain information the same way when we hear it versus when we read it, mostly due to our growing lack of focus.

Is Our Information Safe?

AI devices and technologies are known to keep a record of what we say. The ‘Alexa’ smartphone app allows you to delete your browser history from the log on your phone, but we aren’t entirely sure that the information isn’t stored elsewhere.

Keep in mind, too, that Amazon is a retailer first. The data they retrieve from an ‘Alexa’ user is used to help them market certain things to those people. For instance, if you ask a question about the Coral Reef, you can probably expect a book on the subject to pop up on your suggested list of products on Amazon’s site.

So how safe is our information with Amazon’s Alexa?

So far, it looks like Amazon has the back of its customers. Take the murder in Bentonville, Arkansas for instance. Upon receiving a warrant for any data collected from a specific device for potential use in a murder trial, Amazon responded with a big “N-O.”

Due to Amazon’s current privacy policy, and the way the information is stored (mostly anonymously), Amazon refused to give up any information. Their official reason was that there is no way to connect any information from their database to any specific event, therefore it would be useless.

Privacy policies, however, can change over time. Companies could also have more control over how they market products to consumers using this information. Does this mean we may also be learning information that we aren’t necessarily looking for since ‘Alexa’ could potentially share with us only what she wants to?

If AI learned to be more in control of our data, as well as more dominant in our homes, would future generations have to evolve to retain more information?




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