By Dan Moren
August 31, 2017 5:28 PM PT
The Back Page: Too Many Virtual Assistants
Look, it all started out innocently enough. Apple put this robot voice on my phone, and at first it was fun to ask it questions and get witty answers. Occasionally it was useful for setting a timer or even sending a quick text message.
But this has gotten out of hand.
Okay, I admit it: I laughed, at first, when people warned me of the dangers of intelligent agents listening to and watching everything I said and did. It seemed presposterous that that would ever come back to bite me. After all, these are mere voices in machines, not real intelligences. They were here to make my life easier, better. The idea that they could somehow be bent on my destruction was a thing of fiction.
That is what I thought, anyway. But how wrong I have been proved.
My modest one-bedroom apartment is now overflowing with virtual assistants, to the point where to even speak a single word—nay, even a syllable!—out loud could put me at risk of any number of little cylinders and air-freshener-shaped gadgets lighting up in their sinster fashion and “accidentally” sending an email message to my childhood crush or playing the greatest hits of Michael Bolton throughout the entire house.
I knew I should never have let them watch Westworld.
Please. Send help. I haven’t slept in two weeks, because every time I get in bed, the Philips Hue lights go on full blare and John Philip Sousa marches start playing at volume level 11. Does passing out count as sleeping?
I’m not quite sure how it got so out of control; much of it is a blur. All I wanted was a simple way to play music in the kitchen, and now there’s an Echo, an Echo Show, two Sonos Speakers, a Google Home, and I’ve heard them whispering amongst each other that they might try to order a HomePod when it comes out. I’d stop them, but I’m pretty sure they have access to my credit cards. Mostly I’m worried that they might buy three or four Roombas and try to herd me. The smart locks will not let me out. The TV is playing nothing but episodes of Frasier 24 hours a day.
Friends, there is only so much Kelsey Grammer one man can take. And that number was already very close to zero. I’m not sure how much longer I can hold out. I fear for my very life. Like Icarus, I flew too close to the sun on wings of wax, and now I am paying the pric—what’s that you say? Unplug them?
Huh. I mean. I could. The plug is right there. But wouldn’t that mean, you know, making my own calendar appointments? Or looking up things on the Internet myself? Wouldn’t I have to buy a radio? I…I don’t know. I mean: on the one hand I’ve got murderous intelligences, and on the other…figuring out how many teaspoons are in a quarter cup.
I think I’ll take my chances with the murderous intelligences.
[Dan Moren is the East Coast Bureau Chief of Six Colors. You can find him on Mastodon at @email@example.com or reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. His latest novel, the supernatural detective story All Souls Lost, is out now.]