“Alexa, play Jeopardy!,” he might say—and his word is her command.
And that gives me pause. My wife and I have expended much time and energy ensuring that when Ari speaks, he does so respectfully and intelligently. But he can speak to Alexa without any consideration at all. “Please” or “thank you” are never involved. In fact, polite words would just get in the way.
Of course, there was no “please” or “thank you” in my BASIC computations. But then, my programming was written—silently and solitarily. Alexa makes the command-based nature of computers audible. The device lives on the table where Ari, his mother, sister, and I eat every day. We talk at her all the time.
Kids who live with Alexa or other smart speakers have access to a digital genie. What might be the consequences of giving a child this voice-activated magic lamp, one with no limit to wishes and no consequences for exceeding the allotted amount?