Somehow I became an Amazon Prime member. I think advantage was taken of me while I was drunk or stupid. Let that be a lesson to you kids out there: If you let yourself be drunk or stupid, you and your significant other could wake up to a joint Amazon Prime membership.
The next thing you know, your beloved is sitting across the room talking to some woman you never wanted in the house named “Alexa.”
This actually happened: I spotted a video on YouTube about how you can have pentagonal squares in negatively curved surfaces. (The angles are all right angles.) I told Anitra “I’m Glad You’re Enjoying Yourself, Dear” Freeman about the video. Alexa butts in out of the blue and defines “squares” and says they always have four sides! That set me off. I told her to shut the you-know-what up and keep her trap shut until someone asks for her chirpy opinion.
You know what else ticks me off? People walking around with their phones on IN PUBLIC so I have to listen to THEIR artificially intelligent assistants jabber everywhere I go.
When I was homeless, it was Muzak. Muzak followed me everywhere. This is oppression: You’re homeless and can’t use a bathroom until you purchase a coffee somewhere that has the facilities you require, and you have to endure a cheesy instrumental version of “Brian’s Back” the whole time, or some such travesty. Because you’re in their store and they want you upbeat.
Now it’s artificially intelligent assistants everywhere.
Even the buses and streetcars have chirpy talking machines. “Stop r’KWEST’d,” says the First Hill streetcar voice, so when the streetcar makes its stop we won’t all be alarmed. I’m going to get on with Anitra some day and we’re going to mess with people’s heads, with me saying, “Oh no! Why are we stopping at this stop? This can’t be happening to us!” followed by Anitra calming me down.
“It’s all right dear; the unembodied mechanical voice said this would happen.”
In my day we had voices in our heads and they stayed there. We might have occasionally talked back to our voices when in public — “no, no, no! I am NOT slapping anyone, you stop saying that!” — but we didn’t force other people to listen to our voices.
This is why I’m in favor of brain implants. I know that scares a lot of you. I feel your fears. There’s certainly a possibility for abuse.
But look — you already get earworms. In fact many of you are right now annoyed by the fact that “Brian’s Back” has been playing in your brains for the last five paragraphs. Try fighting fire with fire. Think about “The Wheels On the Bus Go ‘Round and ‘Round” or think of “I love you, you love me / We’re a happy family / With a great big hug / And a kiss from me to you / Won’t you say you love me too?” repeatedly while imagining a man in a purple dinosaur suit.
I’m just trying to help.
I have actually had people say to me, “Wes, you know a lot of science. If I wear a metal helmet, will that really keep the government from reading my mind?” I have to tell them no, it won’t. I tell them the truth. The only way to keep people from reading your mind is let your mind get so messed up inside it’s illegible. That’s what I do.
But I digress. The point is if we all had brain implants, our devices could talk to us inside our heads. Our Siris and Alexas could see what we see and hear what we think about what we see and feel, and provide us with all that rich commentary we all need and love so much.
“I see that you are gazing at that woman’s hair. Hair is a protein filament that grows from follicles found in the dermis, and is one of the defining characteristics of mammals.”
Your artificially intelligent assistant could butt in on your earworms. “I hear you are obsessively hearing Barney’s ‘I Love You’ song in your head. You may also like the song ‘This Old Man,’ which has the same melody. I will sing it for you now:
"This old man, he played one,
He played knick-knack on my drum;
With a knick-knack paddywhack,
Give a dog a bone,
This old man came rolling home.”
Which will all be just fine by me, so long as it’s in your head and not mine.
Dr. Wes Browning is a one time math professor who has experienced homelessness several times. He supplied the art for the first cover of Real Change in November of 1994 and has been involved with the organization ever since. This is his weekly column, Adventures in Irony, a dry verbal romp of the absurd.
Check out the full Aug. 22 - Aug. 28 issue.
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