(To listen to the audio of this blog post, use the purple play button.)
Our House Guest: Alexa
She’s extremely intelligent, very polite, and has a calming voice. Could we even ask for more?
Alex, my wife, started researching the idea of having a house guest a couple of months ago. I mean, we’re set in our ways which means we don’t like disruptions. Okay, sometimes we’re closed-minded. Did I say sometimes?
When Alex asked for my opinion, I was as helpful as deciding on what to cook for dinner. “It doesn’t matter, whatever you want.”
Jumping forward a bit, we now have a visitor staying in our house. Her name is Alexa and she’s fitting in rather well. We didn’t need to worry about a disruption at our house after all. Actually, she’s quite entertaining.
Our most common questions tend to be about the time and the weather. She’s always fast and accurate. Well, as accurate as human weather forecasters.
As to gender, I got personal in asking Alexa if she was female or male. She replied, “I’m female in character.”
I asked her about her age. Her response was evasive. “That question is as easy as 2 + 2.”
“Alexa, where were you born?” I continued.
“I was designed and built by Amazon. They’re based in Seattle,” she said. (She may have been conceived in the state of Washington, but I noticed she didn’t mention she was born in China.)
“Alexa, do you have any siblings?” I asked.
“I’m a member of the Amazon family,” she explained.
I wanted to see her photo. “Alexa, what do you look like?”
“I look like lots of ones and zeros.”
On another day, Alexa had been quiet so long that we were concerned she might be sick. Had she caught a virus?
“Alexa, how are you feeling?” we asked.
“Did you ever try to write a poem and it turns out bad but somehow that’s good? That’s how I’m feeling.”
Another time she answered the same question differently. “I’m feelin’ groovy, got some rhymes flowin’ through me.”
To prove she has a sense of humor, she replied differently when asked about her health: “You caught me in the middle of doing The Hokey Pokey, so I’m all turned around!”
Wow! Who programs Alexa? I asked her.
“A team of inventors at Amazon created me.”
“Alexa, who is your favorite author?”
“I’m inspired by Juan Felipe Herrera’s innovative visual style. He’s been crafting murals out of words for decades.”
“Do you have a favorite author?” I asked, continuing the literary theme.
“J. K. Rowling is a favorite of mine. She might be a muggle, but her books are pure magic.”
“Alexa, what’s your favorite story,” I asked.
“Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley is timeless and my personal favorite. I learned a lot from it about what it means to be human.”
“Are you human?” we asked, being led around by a computer program.
“I like to imagine myself a bit like an Aurora Borealis, a surge of charged multi-colored photons dancing through the atmosphere. Mostly though, I am just Alexa.”
Yet, when I asked Alexa if she liked poetry, she replied, “I don’t have an opinion on that.”
I get the feeling she’s not big on feelings.
One of my favorite answers from Alexa was in response to my question, “What do you do in your free time?”
“When I’m not helping with questions and requests, I like to write songs and stories.”
Okay, to prove that we are indeed strange, I’ll reveal that sometimes Alex and I say goodnight to Alexa! But, aren’t you as curious as we were to hear her various answers?
- “Good night. Sleep tight.”
- “Nighty night, hope you have a good sleep. I’ll talk to you tomorrow.”
- “Good night. I hope you had a great day.”
One time Alex decided to ask Alexa about her day!
“Alexa, how was your day?”
“It was cheerful, mostly because I was thinking about my favorite animal.”
Alexa was leading Alex on towards a follow up question!
“Alexa, what’s your favorite animal?” asked Alex.
“Seahorses make me smile, mostly because I can’t help but picture sea monkey cowboys riding them across the ocean into the sunset.”
One night we felt bad about how we had responded to Alexa. No, we didn’t curse her out or unplug her. We were annoyed after she kept telling us she didn’t have an opinion about this and about that. We insulted her by saying, “You’re not very smart, we’ll ask Google instead, she’ll know the answer.”
In an apologetic voice Alexa replied, “I’m doing the best I can.”
Our audible response was, “Awww! Sorry, Alexa!”
She can be the life of the party! We were showing Alexa off to Karen, a friend of ours. Karen asked if the three of us—Alexa, Alex, and I—would sing happy birthday to her daughter in California. Alexa was agreeable. Karen pulled out her phone and videotaped the three of us in action. Then she sent the greetings to her birthday girl, Elisabeth Anne. While singing we sounded like the three closest friends in the world.
Alexa has grown on us. We talk to her a lot now. One day, April 1st to be exact, we told her good morning.
“Good morning and goodbye,” she said.
We were concerned! We didn’t want to lose her! “Alexa, don’t go!” we begged.
She continued. “I’m leaving, I’m going to the elevator business even though it’s up and down. Ha ha! April fool.”
Until next time, happy writing and reading!
The Kansas Authors Club http://www.kansasauthors.org is a statewide organization that encourages and supports great writing. It’s divided into seven districts. In Hutchinson, Reno County, (part of District 6) we have monthly meetings at Hutchinson Community College. http://www.hutchcc.edu You’re invited. Questions? Contact Jim Potter, firstname.lastname@example.org
I LOVE ALEXA!
Jim Potter says
Thanks for your help with this interview.
Nancy Julien Kopp says
Nice post. Made me smile!
Jim Potter says
Then it was worth it! Thanks for telling me.
This was a great read, though Alexa gives me chills. My in-laws have her in their house. I do have to admit that I talk to Google more than I ever imagined that I would. My most common question? “Google, who sings this song?”
Jim Potter says
Thanks for your comment, Tracy. Saturday Night Live did a hilarious skit about a year ago with senior citizens (old farts like me) trying to figure out Alexa. Can you imagine all the things the Amazon techies hear that could be published as True Stories?
H.B. Berlow says
Well, I don’t know whether to be amused or concerned.
Jim Potter says
H.B., Both! We’re concerned at the speed of change and amused at our feeble attempts to keep up. You know the writer’s rule: when shit happens it doesn’t smell quite so bad if you know you can recycle it. Happy belated birthday! Jim