“Alexa!, play The Cure in the dining room.”
And just like that, my Sonos speakers fill the room with the sweet sound of Robert Smith’s guitar in Just Like Heaven. I should mention that the quality of my cooking is strongly correlated to the variety of music playing at the time. Oh, and the convenience can’t be overstated, playing music, setting timers, taking notes, all with my hands full of sticky pizza dough. I remember dreaming about voice controlled computers when I was growing up, those were to good old days when Apple II was at the pinnacle of home computing.
Life with Alexa was pretty good, for one she kept our new dog alive, our 5 year old would continually ask her for canine dietary advice. Chocolates and grapes are out, fish and carrots are ok.
So, how much does Alexa or should I say Amazon really know about us, apparently not that much, other than our taste in music, holiday plans and maybe our sport and news interests. But clearly I wouldn’t have killed it for telling me the latest football results, and I wouldn’t be wasting my time writing this post to tell you about it.
So, let me tell you a little story... A little while ago, I came home after a usual day at the office, you know, get up on stage in front of a few people, try to inspire them about the importance of data and data literacy in today’s world. On this occasion, I followed a fantastic keynote presentation by a well-known speaker and author. The topic was based on his latest book, and his talk was both informative and entertaining. Fast forward to that evening, I was sitting around the kitchen table with a glass of red, as I was telling my wife about my day, and it went something like this...
“I saw a great talk this afternoon, and I think I need to write a book, find an interesting topic that I care about, do some research, something that would give me enough speaking material for a year or two”, I said jokingly to my wife, Kathy. chuckle, chuckle…
“Well…, it’s not such a crazy idea, in fact, you don’t even need to write it yourself, you can get a ghostwriter, you would be surprised how many authors do that”, she replied.
“That is a crazy idea, an interesting one, but crazy, I never thought of a someone else writing my book for me”, I said, as I took another sip of my Pinot.
And that was it, as the conversation turned to a more exciting topic of a cycling trip on the weekend. But to my surprise, more of a shock really, I received the following text message on my phone the next morning.
"Hey, Become a Best Selling Author. Get your Book Written Today with Amazon 85% Off Coupon. Coupon Expiring in 2 Hrs. Ghost-writing.us?amz ACTIVATE NOW”
The message was from Amazon, I never received a text message from Amazon, I don’t remember giving my mobile number to them. The topic of ghostwriters was never before motioned at home, I didn't ask Alexa, I didn’t search the web about it, no emails were sent, just a one minutes chat about it at our kitchen table.
Call me paranoid, but don’t you think someone is listening to our conversations. Coincidence? I think not, it’s just too specific, if it were about football, politics or AI, I would understand, but pitching ghostwriters to me, that's way too creepy for my liking. I work in technology, so clearly I should have seen this coming and shouldn’t be surprised. Is this even legal? Even if it is, it is most certainly not ethical.
But what does Alexa think?
Well, Alexa is dead and buried (in the backyard) by our dog. Maybe there should be a warning label plastered next to the Amazon logo saying, “I am listening to your every word, so I can sell you shit you don’t need."