Smart devices, not so smart after all?

24 February 2020
Posted in News
24 February 2020 Malcolm Moore

I love technology, I always have. From a very young age I was interested in tech and gadgets, a keen gamer throughout life and always excited when ‘the next big thing’ came out, from the lights and sound Star Wars toys I had as a young boy to my first ‘Pong’ games console in a lovely walnut finish.

Smart devices, in particular, now fascinate me and voice control has captured me to the point where my home is filled with it. From my first experience with Xbox through Kinect, on phones with Siri, Cortana and Google Assistant to Alexa enabled plugs, lights, security cameras, we are surrounded by ways to make life easier without having to move out of our seats. I am purposely not going to go into the link with obesity on this occasion as that is another debate.

My rant here is more fundamental, and it is the one thing about voice control that really annoys me. As a Generation X child, born to a Traditionalist and Baby Boomer I was brought up well, In a society where if you did something wrong you got a clip round the ear, I was taught respect, to be polite and courteous, something I am very proud of. And this is my bug bear with voice activation.

It has become all too easy to demand and get; Alexa, play my music, Siri, call John, Hey Google, turn on the lights, Xbox, record that… with manners being classed as a cultural social intelligence, where is this demonstrated in these so called ‘smart’ devices?

As a parent I have brought my children up the way I was taught, to always say please and thank you and to have respect when talking to others, but this is now being challenged by the ability for them to simply ask a machine to do something and get it. You can argue it’s just a machine, but the traits follow through to everyday life. It has become far too commonplace to hear conversations with little or no manners, amongst friends, work colleagues, in shops, on public transport. The ‘demand and get’ culture has gotten out of hand. Maybe what has frustrated me most is how my generation, who are at the forefront of many of these innovations, have allowed this to happen. In old school words ‘we should have known better.’

It’s time for market leaders to address this. Let’s start with Amazon, creator of Alexa, famous for its exceptional customer experience, impeccably polite when you deal with them, how has this not been translated? Companies like Amazon, Apple, Google and Microsoft need to take some accountability and address this issue, simply making it so you cannot have your ‘music on demand’ without saying please would go a long way to changing the way people think and speak.

If we have to be polite to the machines then these behaviours will subconsciously follow through to everyday life and interactions. A simple and worthwhile fix, surely?


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