I paid a visit to Amazon.com today to see if I could find a particular piece of sheet music. I didn’t find it, but on the front page was an announcement that Amazon Echo is available to the general public. I had not really paid attention to the news about this before. But when they quoted CNET as saying “The Echo may be the closest thing we’ll have to a Star Trek computer at home” it got my attention.
The video on the Amazon website makes it look impressive. I suspect that in practice there will be hiccups. But it is a major step, and as with Google Glass, I am wondering how this might impact not just life in the home, but also education. What if there was one of these in every classroom? How might that change things? It might make getting the projector on and off easier – although it would also potentially make life awkward for a student named Alexa, not to mention the potential for students to blurt out commands to it at moments not conducive to what a professor is trying to accomplish.
But whatever its usefulness, it is still exciting to see science fiction become science fact. And as more devices become capable of learning and responding to voice commands, it becomes all the more imperative that we have the ethical discussions about artificial intelligence that I discuss in my chapter in Religion and Science Fiction. Not surprisingly, several people have already made horror movie versions of the commercial. Here’s one example: