Inside the echo chamber

Old hand - young-ish heart
Old hand – young-ish heart

Some might add “- juvenile mind.” Perhaps. I took this picture of my hand this morning because while we were watching CBS Sunday Morning, Cindy remarked on how old Jane Pauley’s hands looked. I said that I was older than Jane Pauley but still hand young-ish hands. Then I looked down at my hand and almost dropped my coffee cup when I took a close look. I carefully set down my cup and took out my phone to record how wrong I was. Please ignore any sobbing that you may imagine that you hear.


One of the gifts I received for Christmas this year was an Echo Dot from Amazon. It is an interesting gift. It is a voice activated “virtual assistant.” I’m not sure why “virtual assistant” is in quotation marks, but that is how it is described on the C-Net website. I’m also not sure why it is called an assistant because so far it hasn’t helped very much. A true assistant would probably ghost write an occasional blog post, but so far I’ve been doing my own writing.

Before I get too far into the meat of this post I must tell you I enjoy personalizing the various alerts on my cell phone and other devices. For instance when Cindy calls me the ring is Lyle Lovett singing “Stand By Your Man.” Email alerts have a male voice saying, “Let’s check the inbox.” By the way, Cindy hates that email alert.

I went to bed the other night with my cell phone on the bedside table. I usually sleep through email alerts, but one came in just as I was falling asleep. I barely noticed it, but then, from the other side of the room, a woman said, “Sorry, I couldn’t find the answer to your question.” What the…! I rolled over to look, but nobody was standing there. Then I woke up enough to realize that it had been Alexa, the voice of the Echo. But no one had asked a question, and certainly no one had said, “Alexa, blather blather blather.”

Perhaps Alexa was hearing voices. Perhaps she is paranoid. I have often wondered since I plugged her in if she makes note of everything we say and reports back to her Amazon overlords. I have asked her questions along those lines but she never admits to understanding my questions.

Anyway, I composed myself to return to sleep, and was almost there when another email alert came in. And again I heard Alexa say, “Sorry, I couldn’t find the answer to your question.” That’s when I figured out that Alexa doesn’t have the best hearing.

When she heard my phone say, “Let’s,” she thought it had said her name and looked for an answer to “check the inbox.” Since that night I have noticed that Alexa goes on alert when the bedroom TV has a Lexus commercial playing. I’m pretty sure that other things on the TV, and perhaps the radio could set her off.

I have also noticed that Alexa doesn’t know as much as I would like. She is very good about telling me the weather forecast or playing music that is stored on my cell phone. Alexa knows the laws of robotics, but doesn’t know that Isaac Asimov devised them. Finally, I can’t convince her to recite dirty limericks. She still needs some work.

4 thoughts on “Inside the echo chamber

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