As you’re probably well aware, the robots have arrived, and they’re being marketed at our collective penchant for laziness, gussied up as “convenience.”
The commercial was full of friendly voices, one belonging to a straight male human, the other to a feminized robot living in the human male’s smarphone. They have a conversation, or rather, the male voice asks the female voice to remember things for the slowly atrophying male voice’s brain.
“Cortana, next time my wife calls, remind me to tell her, Happy Anniversary.”
How is this easier? Does female robot secretary really make this process of remembering/doing more seamless? Employing Cortana to assist you with these tasks involves several steps:
Pushing buttons; talking into the phone; confirming that the phone heard you and interpreted your meaning correctly; saving this reminder appropriately; not accidentally activating an irrelevant app; and coming up with the idea one wants to remember in the first place.
The commercial wants us to think that Cortana is erasing the potential for human error, but technology itself is not infallible. What if the battery dies? What if your wife is waiting for you to call? What if relying on Cortana is ruining your marriage?
We’re uploading our memories; outsourcing key cerebral functions. Set a reminder for Cortana to sound the alarm! We’re the agents of our own destruction, depleting our capacity to remember how to be human.
2 responses to “Holding Our Brains in Our Hands”
Amen to everything you said, to which I would add: What’s with the idea that remembering a wife’s birthday is a mental task on the order of the breaking of the Enigma code in WWII? I am divorced and remarried and I can still remember my ex-wife’s birthday. This is not a major achievement. And I’m also tired of the gendering of the assistant as female. If I ever have a digital assistant (which will surely be a sign of the apocalypse), I want him to sound like Mr. French on “Family Affair”
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HA! “…on the order of the breaking of the Enigma code” indeed. That’s part of the problem–we are implicitly conferring such status onto minor, should-be-rote mental tasks by whipping out the smartphone to “assist” with every little thing. This at once complicates and dumbs-down so many simple tasks that keep us present in our lives.
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