I opened my eyes this morning and asked Alexa to tell me the news, which she promptly did. She wasn’t in my bed, in fact, she wasn’t even in the bedroom. Despite having no ears, she heard me. Her response was loud and clear, even though she has no mouth. In fact, she doesn’t even really have a body. Alexa is just a small, albeit cute, cylinder that is described by her developers as an “intelligent personal assistant.”
Who were her developers and when did she hit the market? Her parents were engineers at Amazon, and she was born in 2014. How do I know? Because I asked Alexa and she told me.! She also informed me about the day’s weather and immediately complied with my request to play “Oh What A Beautiful Mornin’” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Oklahoma.
Then I and sat down with my smartphone to Facetime my daughter who lives halfway around the world and texted another daughter to see how she faired with her overnight shift in the emergency room. That done, I flipped open my laptop to check emails and perused Facebook for comments on my post from the previous evening. I also checked for tweets, and did a quick Google search for “cannabidiol” for any updates I should incorporate into a lecture I was to give. As I was doing that, an ad appeared for a new book, “The Poison Squad” by Deborah Blum. Google knew my interests! With one click I quickly ordered the book on Amazon and had it in my hands two days later.
I got into my car, proceeded to engage “Waze,” a Global Positioning System that would guide me with the least stress through the obstacle course laid out by those despised, ubiquitous orange cones. On the way to work, I listened to satellite radio and made a couple of “hands-free” phone calls using the car’s Bluetooth system. I stopped to buy gas that I paid for by waving a little gizmo on my keychain in front of a sensor on the pump. As I approached my parking spot at McGill, the transponder in my car sent a signal that allowed entry into the garage.
On my way home from work, I bought some groceries. A laser beam scanned the barcodes, and I paid by just hovering my smartphone over an electronic “reader.” In the evening I tuned in a Canadiens game, using the PVR to rewind the live action as I saw fit. I answered some more e-mails on my laptop and posted an attack on notorious misinformant Joe Mercola on my Facebook page. I brushed my teeth with a wirelessly recharged electric toothbrush, and finally went to bed and watched an episode of “The Crown” on my iPad. Then Alexa updated me on the stock market, and as requested, lulled me to sleep with Michael Crawford’s “Magic of the Night” as I reflected on the remarkable fact that none of the technologies I mentioned here were available when I started my career.