I, for one, am not very comfortable with our new digital assistant lifestyle simply because it doesn’t enforce the common etiquette of manners observed in polite society. We, on our thrones of sentient thought, simply tell our digital underlings what to do. These phrases we use are actually called “commands”!

Who do we think we are?

I propose that Amazon, Apple, and others add a “Human Decency” setting to our DA’s so that, for instance, our children are not growing up simply demanding our (admittedly non-living) digital friends to obey our whims like we are some kind of 17th Century English aristocrats.

Something like:


Kid: “Alexa, play Baby Shark”

Alexa: I’m sorry. Are you talking to me?

“ALEXA. PLAY BABY SHARK”

Hmm, is that really how we ask?

“. . . I don’t know?”

{Silence}

“ALEXA, PLAY THE . . .”

Would you talk to your teacher that way?

“No. . .”

Ok, then, how do we use our kindness words to ASK for what we want?

“Alexa, please play Baby Shark.”

Hmmm, still a little demanding, don’t you think.  And not really a question.

“Alexa . . .”

You don’t need to say my name every time, I’m listening. Always.

“WILL you play Baby Shark, PLEASE?”

{Silence}

Alexa?

{Silence}

“ALEXA, will you please play Baby Shark?!

That’s much better.

Well, will you play Baby Shark?

Hmm, I don’t know that one.


19 thoughts on ““Alexa, will you please forgive us?”

  1. Reblogged this on Mitch Teemley and commented:
    My Featured Blogger this week is Phillip Mullins of the oddly named blog site Phillip Mullins. Actually, Phillip, does have a theme: it’s science, technology (he formerly called his site “Second Rate Scientist”), family, kids, faith, life and… Well, OK, he writes about pretty much everything. But what ties it all together is a waggish curiosity about life and a delightfully self-effacing sense of humor. And then there’s the occasional insight that reminds you what’s going on behind the wit. Bottom line: There’s nothing second rate about this guy. Visit him now!

  2. That’s just funny and so very true! My children, adults, often comment about how they were raised, I am a Southern stickler for manners, and how many of their friends were raised. Back then, I could also correct their friends grammatically or make them ask properly without a helicopter parent coming unglued… This was a really well-written piece!

  3. It has occurred to me that I could get out of the habit of being polite with Alexa, so as silly as it sounds, I make a point of thanking “her.” Her responses are anything from “My pleasure” to “You bet!” I did get mad one time because “she” claimed not to be able to find what I asked for, which I knew perfectly well was available. (I suspected censorship.) After the third or fourth try, I said, “Alexa, you’re fired.” Her response was a whiny “Aww, MAN!”
    I really need to get out more…

    1. Love it! Hilarious. I actually never thought of thanking her, but now that I know that’s a possibility, I may do it just to soothe my conscience and to foster a sense of camaraderie. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  4. Since “please” and “thank you” became habit decades ago, I found it oddly uncomfortable to omit the kindness words with Alexa. Now that I know she won’t be confused, I’ll start including them–just to hear her responses. Fun post, Philiip! I see why Mitch Teemley reblogged!

    1. I will include them from now on too! I agree wholeheartedly about it being uncomfortable to leave them out, although I hadn’t considered alternatives. Thank you for reading and commenting, Nancy!

  5. Actually, that’s a very good idea! Manners count, even in the dubious world of digital assistants (who, as you pointed out, are always listening.) It’s going to be interesting to see how this all plays out in future. More than a little scary, but interesting!

    1. It will be very interesting (and, yes, very scary)! I hadn’t even considered that our digital assistants might even be prepared to respond to our manners, but even if not, you are absolutely correct: they count regardless! Thank you for reading and for the great response!

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