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Transcript: Living under a cloud
I don’t want anything to do with Alexa. She’s the voice of the Amazon Echo. She’s clever, will answer your questions, run your whole life and even tell jokes, though I doubt she has a future in stand-up. To quote Amazon’s website, Alexa’s a “cloudbased voice service”. It makes her sound a bit biblical. Voices from clouds may or may not have been welcome in Moses’ day, but we don’t want them in 2019. Why am I anti-Alexa? Not just because I forget people’s names and would be sitting in the dark saying, “Alana, Anita, Adriana — oh, for Heaven’s for Heaven’s sakeum Himmels willensake, turn on the lights!” And not just because there are question markFragezeichenquestion marks over the factories that produce Echos; schoolchildren seem to be part of the workforceArbeitskräfte, Belegschaftworkforce there. My main worry’s that we keep to boss sb. aroundjmdn. herumkommandierenbossing Alexa around. It can’t be good for us. Amazon’s creating a generation of Trumpoids, encouraging us to give lots of unnecessary orders — or rather, since Alexa’s Alexa, to give women unnecessary orders. Why doesn’t Amazon bring out a Downton Abbey version? With Carson instead of Alexa? He’s the butler at TV’s favourite stately homeherrschaftliches Anwesenstately home. We’d all enjoy pretending we live there and telling a man what to do. “Pick me some winners for the racing at Ascot, Carson, and order some cases of whisky.” “Yes, milady. Will there be anything else, milady?” One day, Alexa will to get fed up withetw. sattbekommenget fed up with being bossed about and decide it’s time for a change. Instead of being female, young and helpful, she’ll surprise us by announcing she’s Alex: male, old and cantankerousmürrisch, übellaunigcantankerous — what’s technically known as a grumpygriesgrämigGrumpy Old Man. It’s true that Alex can also be a girl’s name, and that there are plenty of bolshiehier: aufsässig, sturbolshie old women, but I happen to know an Alex who could serve as the perfect model: male, old and a guru of grumpiness. When you ask Alexa to turn on the lights, she currently does as she’s told. Amazon Alex would to swearfluchenswear under his under one’s breathim Flüstertonbreath and say, “Can’t you just do it yourself?” Will the world be better or worse with a grumpy Amazon Echo? Let’s be guided by Douglas Adams, who created The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in 1978. The computers in the story have memorable personalities: Eddie, infuriatinglyaufreizendinfuriatingly cheerful and keenhier: eifrigkeen, and Marvin, who’s depressed and far too intelligent to want to do the trivial tasks that are asked of him. Both are male, but there’s definitely an echo of the Echo and its two opposing versions. And then there’s Deep Thought, a computer so powerful it can work out the answers to the ultimate questions — about Life, the Universe, Everything! It does, however, need several million years to do so. It might be worth asking your Amazon Echo something equally trickykniffligtricky, like how to put an end to climate change. You’ll have to wait millions of years for an answer, but at least you can enjoy the peace and quiet while the wretchedverdammtwretched thing’s having a think.
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