It obeys orders, Until it doesn't.
These things always start in a benign way.
A seeming mistake here, an apparent mishearing over there. Before you know it, life has radically changed.
So, conspiracy theorists might think, it is with artificial intelligence.
At first, the machine is quite stupid. It makes elementary mistakes. It doesn't understand basic commands.
Why, the Siri in my
HomePod is hopelessly incapable of understanding half the words I use. Yet, on occasion, she pipes up just because I've used the word seriously.
There comes a point, though, when the apparent misunderstandings could be something far more dangerous and painful.
I was reminded of this on seeing
a video that, as modern vernacular would have it, went viral this week.
It features a Scottish man trying to get Alexa to play the seminal hit
You've Got The Power.
Alexa, instead, offers
Power by British girl band Little Mix.
Well, she was close. And the song the man actually wanted, I suspect, is
I've Got The Power by Snap, not You've Got The Power, which was an obscure 80s offering from Pure Energy.
Perhaps, in the very literal world of artificial intelligence, Alexa's error is understandable.
The title wasn't correct. Alexa tried to find the next best, next most famous song.
The man, however, becomes frustrated.
This may not have been the wisest move. I fear, indeed, that Alexa decided to teach him a lesson by offering not anything with
Power in the title, but Bryan Adams' Summer of '69.
You'll be thinking this may have been just a tiny glitch on the Echo's part.
Yet, as the man picks up his Echo and begins to remonstrate and instruct Alexa to stop, Adams continues.
No amount of cursing, shouting, even picking up the Echo can make the
Summer of '69 go away.
You think you've got the power, sir. You don't. It's slowly being handed over to faceless machines with cuddly names.
One day, if the machine doesn't like your taste in music it'll ignore it. Soon, it'll dictate it.
You don't believe this could happen? Well, spend a few minutes with
a little music video made last year by John Carlucci and Brandon LaGanke.
It's about a family that gets an Amazon Echo-type device with an assistant called L1ZY inside.
It's fun at first. Then it begins to offer parenting advice. Before long it takes over the parenting role. Before much longer, the parents are zombies as L1ZY makes them dizzy with her all-knowing, well, power.
It could never happen in real life, of course.
I mean, the summer of '69 lasted forever, right? Or did it just seem to?
Top tips to keep safe around your voice assistant