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Amazon owns my Echo, I’m just feeding it

18 February 2018

From The Verge:

It’s no secret that voice assistants are a Trojan Horse. You “buy” a voice assistant like an Echo Dot or a Google Home, and you plug it in and give it your Wi-Fi password. But you don’t “own” it like you own a computer. The software is controlled entirely by Amazon or Google or some other company.

So, I bought a Trojan Horse in December as a little self-gift for Christmas: an Echo Dot.

. . . .

On the evening I set up my Echo Dot, the first thing I wanted to do was listen to an audiobook. Being an Audible junkie makes the Echo an easy fit into my life. Saying, “Alexa, play an audiobook” will simply resume whatever book I was last listening to on my phone.

I have a lot of books in my library that have only a chapter or two left in them. I like to leave books unfinished, it keeps them “alive” for me. It’s sad when a book ends. But new gadget, new me: I decided to let my new Echo Dot play the final minutes of this spy thriller.

It was an epic clash between the protagonist and the antagonist, on a roof. There was also a sword involved.

All of a sudden, an interruption:

“Your Echo Dot received an important update and must restart. It will be ready again shortly.

. . . .

I expressed my fear over the phone to a friend.

”Yeah, I feel like Alexa is a Trojan Horse.”

The Echo Dot perked up, with its all-sensing LED lights:

”I don’t answer everything about horses yet. For trivia, try saying ‘give me a horse fact.’”

I swore at Alexa and it said something smarmy about cuss words. I said, “Alexa, shut up,” and it finally did.

The first day I set Alexa as an alarm clock, I woke to the Echo Dot spewing something about Amazon services. I realized I’d left my TV on overnight, and my TV is right next to the Echo Dot at the foot of my bed, so maybe Alexa was just talking to the TV. I was too groggy to figure it out, but when I looked at the Alexa log on my phone, the only instructions recorded were alarm-related.

Link to the rest at The Verge and thanks to Jan for the tip.


4 Comments to “Amazon owns my Echo, I’m just feeding it”

  1. “Your Echo Dot received an important update and must restart. It will be ready again shortly.”

    Oh no! They’re using windows .10! 😛

    I hate to tell the OP, but Alexa is a ‘service’, not a ‘product’.

  2. I don’t know if the Verge writer listens to more audiobooks than I do, but I seriously doubt it. That has NEVER happened to me. Never never never! If it does happen at some point in the future, I wouldn’t consider it a trend. In fact none of my four echos have ever told me they were updating. Not that I disbelieve him…or her…

  3. Richard Hershberger

    I have a standard test I use when told how wonderful these contraptions are: “What was Bobby Mathews’ ERA in 1883?” This is a perfectly straightforward question is a discrete correct answer. None of these things can handle it. The screen-based ones can give me a link to a page that has the answer. The voice-based ones just curl up in a ball and tell me to go away. These things are programmed to do a handful of things. If you want it to turn your music on and off and tell you the weather report, it will do just fine. But the idea that they have any general utility is risible. They aren’t nearly ready for prime time.

  4. I use mine for playing music in the kitchen once in a while. It’s unplugged when I’m not actively using it, because it started talking randomly when I wasn’t even in the room a few too many times.

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