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Wednesday, March 22, 2023

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Five years of language assistants: Bye-bye, Alexa!

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Alexa, remember? The next big thing, the last hot shit in every life that wants to be smarter than life. Alexa was new, exciting, the show effect was gigantic: Alexa, what time is it in Auckland? Alexa, when is the next train from the main station to Finsterwalde? Alexa, play Highway to Hell.

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The guest, also the guest, they marveled at the practical help with the soft voice, very likely they brought Alexa or Apple’s Siri or Microsoft’s Cortana or Google’s Home Assistant into the living room. Google.de already heard the death knell ring.

Be high, be free, Alexa has to be there, that was the slogan of those who had heard David Hasselhoff speak too often with “Kitt” or Dave Bowman with HAL in “2001: A Space Odyssey”.

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What five years ago looked like a disembodied computer, even better: like “ubiquitous computing”, has actually become just a dust collector. For Amazon, Alexa is even a billion dollar grave, in 2022 alone a loss of ten billion dollars is said to have been accumulated. Thousands of Amazonians are also losing their jobs because of Alexas.

Demonstrating Alexa made an impression, but I rarely got beyond demonstrating. As it turned out in everyday practice: the wristwatch tells me the time faster, shopping on a cell phone is more efficient because the smartphone shows the product from all sides, trains run when they want anyway and not how Alexa wants.

Then there was a strange effect: Alexa babbled on without being asked, which was irritating and provoked suspicion that Alexa was registering my actions, my preferences, my consumption yes, reading my thoughts. Some want to know that Alexa listens when you speak, moan or make a call. The Sprachassi as a bugging agent by Jeff Bazos. That’s pretty much how the conspiracy theory goes.

Alexa is now silent, I’ve finished the question and answer game. I feel more independent, more independent. Maybe Alexa needs me, but I don’t need Alexa. My communication with the computer is through my fingers, not my voice. I find that very satisfying.

There is technology that does not inspire.

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Source: Tagesspiegel

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