Recently, thanks to colleagues Mike Anderson and Scott McLeod, I read Marcus Wolhosen’s commentary in Amazon’s Weird Siri Like Speaker is Yet Another Way to Get You to Shop and Greg Krumparak’s argument in Let’s Call Amazon’s Echo What It Is. If you have not seen or heard of Echo-no worries, Amazon has published information including a video dedicated to enlighten. You can only purchase the Echo through an application process. I just applied today. I anxiously await my acceptance email.
According to Amazon, “Echo’s brain is in the cloud, running on Amazon Web Services so it continually learns and adds more functionality over time. The more you use Echo, the more it adapts to your speech patterns, vocabulary, and personal preferences.” Wolhosen addresses the eventual ease and potential of using Echo to purchase through a Prime account. Krumparek believes Amazon desires to be ubiquitous, “…Amazon doesn’t want to be a destination anymore; they don’t want to be something you have to go to…They want their store “front end” to be floating in the ether all around you, just waiting for you to open your mouth.” As I read the commentary, I could not help but be reminded of the world Ray Bradbury created in “The Veldt.” Have you read? If not, I highly encourage…
I often make text to text connections, and the articles read delivered me to the front steps of Bradbury’s 1950 haunting tale. He designs a futuristic world focusing on a family living in what we might call a “smart house.” Technology is not a destination, but an immersive environment. Bradbury’s creation of a world includes virtual reality as entertainment and caretaker of the children. The lifestyle inadvertently leads to the parent’s demise. Bradbury addresses through setting, conflict, and theme, the dangers of irresponsible, unsupervised immersion. Especially eerie is Bradbury’s description of the children’s virtual reality nursery:
Remarkable how the nursery caught the telepathic emanations of the
children’s minds and created life to fill their every desire. The children
thought lions, and there were lions. The children thought zebras, and there
were zebras. Sun—sun. Giraffes—giraffes. Death and death.
While his description is quite dark, I see at the very least, conversation must be had as our want, our thought, and our potential purchase power is not limited to store front or mouse click.
If Wolhosen and Krumparek are right, and eventually, we can ask Echo to make purchases and fulfill the commands of our purchase wants…If Echo learns from us, from our purchases, from our searches, from our questions, if Echo is like a Siri/Googleish combination-amplified and intensified…shouldn’t we be discussing the advantages and repercussions of such ease and of such power?
Mostly, I am curious. I want the Echo. I am sure I might want the next Echo thingy, too. But, mostly, I am curious. This post is not really about Bradbury and really, it is not about the Echo either. It is, however, commentary on need for learning about all that happens in the NOW and conversation about all that happens in the NOW. How are we including the advances in technology that could affect our financial wellness in our work to address financial literacy? I just wonder…Almost daily I see a new app to help me organize my money, spend my money, analyze the spending of my money. I can take a picture of a check, and it is deposited. I can use my phone to scan a barcode to find the best price, I can buy from the store, from the supplier, from the maker. Search engines tailor advertisements to me based on my searches on their engine. And what I mention is not necessarily new…Even my discussion of Echo is already old news. If we credit Bradbury for his genius fictional invention, well, “The Veldt” was written the year my father was born, so…
FYI: I am crossing my fingers. I still want the Echo.