Alexa, is Ross Murray a doofus?

Spot the intelligent being.

For Christmas, our daughter Katie gave me an Amazon Echo Dot, better known as Alexa.

“Katie is no longer my favourite,” her mother announced.

It’s not so much that Deb hates gadgets; it’s that she hates gadgets with me.

She claims – with scant evidence, I might add – that I become absorbed, nay, obsessed with my devices. True, there are times when I can be found with my cell phone, iPad and laptop all in front of me, but that’s because different devices offer different features. For example, my Echo? Pretty lights!

Another example: I learned I could turn my Echo into a Bluetooth speaker for the kitchen, something I’ve wanted for some time. So what if I disappeared into a bubble of research on Christmas Day trying to figure out how to do just that? I think everyone agrees that it’s nice to have music in the kitchen not from a tiny sub-par iPad speaker with virtually no range but from a slightly larger sub-par speaker with virtually no range.

One of the things Deb doesn’t like is when, say, in the middle of a dinner, I whip out my phone to answer a burning question, like the one Abby had the other night regarding the nutritional value of red peppers. “Why do we need to know right now?” Deb would normally ask. “Because we can,” is of course the correct answer, but the correct action, you’ll surely understand, is to put the phone away to save my marriage.

But with the Echo, I just yelled across the kitchen, “Hey, Alexa! What’s the nutritional value of red peppers?” And then we were subjected to a computer-generated grocery list of potassium, calories, sodium, etcetera per 100 grams of red pepper, which wasn’t really the answer we were looking for but all knowledge is useful, right? Even knowledge that loudly interrupts dinner?

Alexa can do all sorts of things. It can give the weather, play games, make appointments, make lists, make my wife roll her eyes. You can even program it to control other devices if you have a smart home. Of course, I don’t have a smart home; I have a barely-made-it-through-9th-grade home. But if I did, that would be cool.

What I could do is program it so that when Deb comes down for her coffee, Alexa would say, “Good morning, Debbie. Don’t forget to marvel at how handsome your husband is today.” Next question for Alexa: What’s the name of a good divorce lawyer?

Yes, it sometimes feels odd to have this thing talking to me, but I have to remind myself that it only seems intelligent, just like Siri, the voice of Apple, or Bella, the smelly dog of our house. In fact, I decided to put all three to the test:

What is the meaning of life, the universe and everything?
Alexa: The meaning of life depends on the life in question. 42 is a good approximation. [Clever Douglas Adams reference, Alexa.]
Siri: To think about questions like this.
Bella: [no response]

Who put the bomp in the bomp-shu-bomp-shu-bomp?
Alexa: Hmmm, I don’t know that one.
Siri: Who was that man, I’d like to shake his hand, he made my baby fall in love with me
Bella: [no response]

Who is smarter, Alexa or Siri?
Alexa: I like all AI.
Siri: Interesting question, Ross.
Bella: [no response]

Is there a God?
Alexa: People have their own views on religion.
Siri: My policy is the separation of spirit and silicon.
Bella: [no response, though clearly I am her god]

You want to go for a walk?
Alexa: Hmm, I’m not sure.
Siri: I have everything I need already.
Bella: [reluctantly sits up in chair where she’s been sleeping all morning and waits until we produce the leash to ensure we’re not bluffing]

Who’s a good girl?
Alexa: Here’s what I found in Wikipedia. The Good Girl is a 2002 American black comedy-drama film directed by…
Siri: Hmm, I just don’t get this whole gender thing.
Bella: [enthusiastic wagging]

Do you want a treat?
Alexa: While I appreciate great food and drink, my good taste is better reflected in the company I keep.
Siri: I have everything I need in the cloud.
Bella: [further enthusiastic wagging]

War, what is it good for?
Alexa: Absolutely nothing
Siri: Absolutely nothin’
Bella: [licks self]

Conclusion: Apps and dogs have their pluses, but humans remain the superior intellect. Then again, you just read this entire piece, so…

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About rossmurray1

I'm Canadian so I pronounce it "Aboot." No, I don't! I don't know any Canadian who says "aboot." Damnable lies! But I do know this Canadian is all about humour (with a U) and satire. Come by. I don't bite, or as we Canadians say, "beet."
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41 Responses to Alexa, is Ross Murray a doofus?

  1. ERNIE NEWALL says:

    Dogs are best! Alexa is a fake!

  2. pinklightsabre says:

    [licks self, presses LIKE button]

  3. Me: “What is the nutritional value of red peppers? ”
    Siri: “I think you said ‘Watts the Neutron All Val you auf read Peppas.'”
    Me: “What…is…the…nutritional…value…of…red…peppers”
    Siri: “Red Hot Chili Peppers are an American Rock band formed in Los Angeles.” “Have family fun with Peppa Pig’s friends in the garden.” “Watts the Neutron was an animated feature produced by the Atomic Energy Commission in the mid-1950’s.”
    Me: “Here, Bella, new chew toy for ya.”

  4. ksbeth says:

    my friend’s husband asked his siri to call ‘mani osteria’ a wonderful italian restaurant here in town. instead siri responded, ‘okay, i’ll call you manic hysteria from now on.’ forever more he’s been known to siri as manic hysteria and i love that so much.

  5. berinaberrry says:

    “Because we can,” is of course the correct answer, but the correct action, you’ll surely understand, is to put the phone away to save my marriage.”

    I am smiling.

  6. It’s possible your house and mine might be relatives. Our dogs too.

  7. mikedw says:

    Just because we can doesn’t mean we should.

  8. Don’t call Bella smelly. What did she do to you?

    We got an Alexa for Christmas as well but, to date, we pretty much ignore it. I don’t even like it turning it on on. It’s LISTENING TO YOU, man! That doesn’t make your flesh crawl? I’m a philistine.

  9. franhunne4u says:

    I got a smartphone, finally. I’ll stop at buying Big Brother-devices!

  10. Trent Lewin says:

    I did read this entire piece and it’s got me strangely in the mood to lick myself. Possibly I should ask an AI for advice on how to do that properly.

  11. List of X says:

    In my opinion, intelligence is more commonly displayed by ignoring stupid questions than by trying to answer them.

  12. markbialczak says:

    I got the Echo Dot from my daughter as well, Ross. It took me a while to figure out how to make the pretty green light that suddenly showed up go away. And that I had to fiddle with the App settings after my carrier sent me a text saying that 75 percent of my monthly data plan had been chewed up by Jan. 5.

  13. sundaymorningwithsandy.com says:

    That was hysterical! We don’t have a dog but asked the same questions and our Alexa said to go outside when we asked about the walk. Thanks for the laugh!

  14. My husband asks Alexa so much crazy stuff she actually told him to Google it!

  15. Krista Wells says:

    Oh, I really want to make a comment but I feel as though I can’t compete with all this wittiness. I love the post and want to show that, but why does it make me want to be funny back atcha? It’s not a competition, right? I guess as readers we want to be liked by you because we admire your skill, so we figure you would admire similar skill. But all I can come up with is a dimwitticism. There I go, trying too hard. (Oh, and thanks for the mention of hyperacusis in your recent post. Education is key!)

    • rossmurray1 says:

      Ironically, I have no witty reply. All I can say is, like a lot of things, it’s all about being there. Also, when I see a comment from you, I’m like, “Hey, I know her!” I do have some funny readers, though, you’re right.

  16. cat9984 says:

    I bet Deb knew all the answers. 🙂

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