Keepin' it real in Tech
The Curses and Blessings of Virtual Assistants
Virtual Assistants such as Amazon Alexa, Cortana, Siri, etc have changed and are continuing to change the world. They are proof of the saying “no one gets to vote on whether or not technology changes our lives”. A collection of new blessings and dangers come with the introduction of these assistants to the public. These devices affect us by changing our habits and our psychology.
Not only do they change us, but they will change how we use technology in the long term. Let’s look at how these assistants are affecting us so far.
This post may help you decide if virtual assistants would be a blessing or curse on your lifestyle.
As you may already be aware, the increased use in smartphones within the population has also brought about an increased use with calculators, because every smartphone is also a calculator. People who grew up with smartphones can do math, but they tend to have a type of ‘dependence’ on calculators for more difficult problems. Such dependence is already in the process of being developed in modern society. People rely on virtual assistants to remember things for them, such as to-do list or what groceries to get. They rely on virtual assistants to find answers to questions they have, rather than reading on the topic themselves.
There is nothing inherently wrong with this, virtual assistants were made to help us with tasks and make our lives easier, but a dependence on a virtual assistant tends not to be noticed until you no longer have your virtual assistant. Dependence leads to tasks becoming more difficult for us rather than easier.
When you type keywords into Google’s search engine such as “Tow truck near me”, Google gives you a huge list of results segmented into different pages. virtual assistants tend to give you ONE result. This “one answer to one question” method was intended to help people by being concise, but it can actually hurt people by limiting their options.
Suppose you were with some friends in an unfamiliar city and you wanted to know about pizza places in your area. You expected a list but instead got only one result. Not only were you not told of other options in your area, but other businesses who can be found on Google, local news papers and other sources did not get mentioned. This hurts businesses simply by not being mentioned. The user is hurt by not being informed.
- Lack of Use with Advanced Questions
Sure, virtual assistants are good at answering questions you could have found out by typing in Google, but don’t expect it to do your homework for you (yet).
There is a myth that virtual assistants only listen to you when you say the ‘wake word’. This is imply false. How can a device know you say the wake word if it isn’t listening for the wake word? Any programmer or person with common sense can testify to this. If it wasn’t listening, it wouldn’t know you said the wake word in the first place! Some people are not concerned with this but if you are privacy conscious person this is something to take into consideration.
Make no mistake, with sites like https://www.exploit-db.com/ and https://www.rapid7.com/db there is someone right now trying to figure out a way to hack your virtual assistant. If your virtual assistant will heed your commands, it is capable of heeding the malicious commands of someone else. There is still research being done on what kind of long term effects this could have.
Virtual assistants are just that, assistants! And they can automate certain tasks for you so that it is almost as if there are two of you in one place. Combined with other smart technology, virtual assistants can help you with physical tasks (such as locking/unlocking doors, turning lights on/off) rather just with information tasks (sending e-mails, automating calls). This is a blessing that simply can not be ignored.
- Home Notes
Just as shown in some of the commercials, if you’re going to be at work at 6pm and you know your relative/spouse will be home by 7pm, you can have virtual assistants tell them where you left dinner. Also great for passing on to-do lists to members of a household.
You can ask virtual assistants to remind you of tasks you need to have done, and when they need to be done. In a busy lifestyle it is always nice to have someone remember anything you might have forgotten.
While you’re cooking supper and can’t stop and leave the stove you can have a virtual assistant answer the phone for you, e-mail a co-worker, or play some music while your hands are full.
All in all virtual assistants are neat tools that when used and handled properly, can bring joy and increase productivity. Just keep in mind that they can also build dependency and be a possible privacy and security risk.
Use your judgement and your own analysis to find out if purchasing a virtual assistant is right for you.
Keep it real.