Alexa, we need to talk

Rachna Singh
Saturday, 26 May 2018

My friend was alone that weekend, so I decided to pay her a visit. She went to the kitchen to fix a cup of coffee for me. I was sitting on the sofa, soaking in the calming quietude of her beautiful living room, when a hushed, mysterious voice, from somewhere behind me, asked me a question in a softly lingering intonation. I froze. Who was this? She repeated the question and mumbled something else after that. Crumbling like those cakes I bake, I was about to get up to make a dash for the front door when this mystery woman suggested I listen to the song, Roop tera mastana.

My friend was alone that weekend, so I decided to pay her a visit. She went to the kitchen to fix a cup of coffee for me. I was sitting on the sofa, soaking in the calming quietude of her beautiful living room, when a hushed, mysterious voice, from somewhere behind me, asked me a question in a softly lingering intonation. I froze. Who was this? She repeated the question and mumbled something else after that. Crumbling like those cakes I bake, I was about to get up to make a dash for the front door when this mystery woman suggested I listen to the song, Roop tera mastana.

I was sweating now. Was she hunched over me, dagger in hand, with this kinky request just before she killed me? 
And, quite spookily, the song actually started playing. My roop was far from mastana by the time my friend came with my coffee. She introduced me to Alexa, the new woman in her husband’s life.

‘Has he programmed her to woo visiting females?’ I snorted, only to get the death stare.

I turned to another friend (I keep looking for people who can make me coffee) to inquire more —Do you also have Alexa? What does she do?  

‘Well, she was fun to begin with but then she started helping my son with his homework’, she complained.

‘How?’

‘He’d just ask her, Alexa, how much is 439 X 238 and note the answer.’

‘What did you do about it?’

‘I sent her packing.’

‘Where is she now?’

‘Under the staircase.’

What are we humans up to? The quest towards making our lives easier keeps assuming bigger, more ridiculous dimensions day by day. What next? An assistant to wipe out mouths after every bite we take? An assistant to help us move our fingertips on the TV remote? An assistant to tell us if our butt agrees with the sofa we are sitting on via a compatibility score?

The results of this AI invasion are not surprising. Kids have become gold-standard whiners — Why doesn’t this oven tell me if the chocolate in the cake is enough? Why can’t this football tell me when it’s angled correctly for a goal? 

We are killing what’s left of human intelligence with AI! So, I am not much of an AI fan? I need it to fix REAL problems, if it wants my attention. Like my husband’s WhatsApp addiction. In fact, I challenge it to come to my doorstep, sit down and tell me, over a cup of coffee, how I can get the government to fix potholes on my road? Singing songs for me, that too, so sneakily that I have a cardiac situation, is not going to impress me.
But, looking at the bright side, this very artificial intelligence can be a huge help. No, not in the ways you are thinking. 
My friend, a brilliant doctor but ummm, well, not-so-brilliant singer blames AI for his poor karaoke scores. He insists that the mike senses it’s him singing and awards him scores based on that recognition despite him having improved drastically. He closes this argument with a loud ‘yahoooo’ that renders us deaf and too stunned to rebut.

(Bestselling author Rachna Singh is a sit-down commedienne)

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