Artificial Intelligence at Home

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all we had to do was speak our wishes and they came true?

Maybe we can’t have our dreams fulfilled that way, but we can get information and affect our surroundings merely by voice command, which uses artificial intelligence voice recognition. Amazon Alexa, Apple Siri, Google Assistant, and others have introduced various forms of digital personal assistants (DPA) into our home. These devices can do such simple things as providing weather reports, streaming music, alerting us to appointments, setting the thermostat, and programming our TV to give us the shows we want. They can answer questions as a search engine. They can also order from Amazon and elsewhere, using a credit card on file, based on your voice commands. Your kids will love this feature.

If not properly set up, your DPA would allow your child or even your parrot the opportunity to order for you. Maybe you don’t want your talking bird housed too close to your DPA’s microphone.

A recently purchased printer from HP has not only the built-in ability to purchase ink for us on a regular basis, but the annoying habit to keep reminding us of its capability. I’ve read of plans for a refrigerator that would do likewise for its contents. The milk is approaching its expiration date. Let’s order more milk. Sorry, forgot to tell my fridge I was leaving town for the weekend. Oh, well. As least the newer versions of DPA are adopting senses of humor.

All of the connected home technology works as part of the Internet of Things. Of course, each device becomes a point of weakness into your home systems. You can buy a networked camera and alarm system, connected thermostat, and voice activated TV. You do realize all the voice activated systems are collecting not only your voice commands, but also personal information on your habits and preferences. The companies say they don’t retain that information, but are you sure?

Perhaps we should just accept that the age of privacy is over. After all, families didn’t have privacy throughout most of human history. They lived in one room dwellings where there was no privacy. Often extended families lived under the same roof. Maybe what we think of as privacy is a delusion we tell ourselves. On the other hand, if the wrong people get hold of your private information, such as your social security number, they can do you quite a bit of harm without even seeing you.

The Internet of Things offers tremendous benefits in terms of convenience and connection, but it will come with the unintended consequence of loss of privacy.

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