Bots are everywhere. Using a mix of algorithms, retailers can tailor bot messages to our interests. With improved technology, bots are not only invading our social networks and emails, they are venturing into text messaging, an area relatively free from advertisers . (“Moving Merchandise Via Chats and Bots,” edited by Dimitra Kessenides, Bloomberg Businessweek, May 2-6, 2016 pg. 34.)
Chat commerce is hot because it strives to satisfy our every wish – accomplishing everything from delivering our afternoon lunch to ordering flowers for a dinner party. Several companies have entered this arena, including WeChat and Facebook Messenger.
Jeff Bezo, founder of Amazon, doesn’t plan to be left behind. His latest entry into tech commerce is Echo. A black tube, Echo sits in the home and converts your residence into a smart phone. Want to know how many teaspoons in a cup of sugar? Ask Echo. Want to turn off lights in the house before going to bed? Let Echo do it. The device has more than 500 skills and more are in the pipeline. But already, it is capable of “check[ing] your bank balance or mak[ing] your child’s favorite noises.” (“Who’s Alexa?” Technology section, Ibid pg. 33.) It doesn’t tip the pizza delivery person, however. Echo retails for $180
Being surrounded by smart bots at home gives me the willies. (Blog 12/15/15) Suppose they plot to take over my world? What if Echo stops taking commands and starts giving them? What if it nags me to brush my teeth or do 50 push-ups? Do I really want to know the number of calories in a hot fudge sundae without asking? And what if Echo decides I need to improve my brain and locks my television to the educational broadcasting system? How many nature programs can I endure?
Already I foresee the possible horror of my future. Working with other smart appliances, Echo will organize my life until, one day, I’ll awake to find I am a changed person: smarter, thinner and healthier. Will I know myself? Or will my smart mirror have to say, “It’s you, dummy.”