"OK, Google. How many points has Stephen Curry made in the playoffs?" I asked the robot in my living room. If there is such a thing as a digital shrug this would be it:
The robot didn't know.
Hasn't checked on that lately.
Confused by my question.
That's for now, though. Soon, the bots will know almost everything.
In fact, we might need to corral these bots, most of which run on obelisk-shaped pillars like the Amazon Echo or exhibit the pudgy cuteness of the Google Home speaker shown above. Both respond to your voice (or the voice of a commercial).
You do look funny talking to them.
"OK, Google. How many games have the Golden State Warriors won in the playoffs?" I asked during dinner. My wife looked at me like I had three heads and five arms.
"Who are you talking to?" she asked, a bit sarcastically.
We've been married for 29 years this June. It's all in good fun.
"Google," I say, smiling.
She knows I talk to bots. Too often. But I don't care.
"What's the weather like this Saturday?" I'll say, ignoring her.
Boom, no typing on an iPad, no fumbling for my phone or trying to type on a keyboard with one coffee cup in my hand. Bots free us up to focus on other tasks' we're not clued in so tightly to a screen. In the future, we'll be able to finally multitask in a way that works, despite what brain scientists say about our brains only focusing on one task.
Here's how that will work.
Let's say you have a powerful bot that sits on your desk. You ask the bot to search all of your email and find that one message about the Salesforce training video. But you don't stop there. You ask the bot to watch the hour-long video, then summarize what it finds out. Meanwhile, you're researching Salesforce competitors on Google. OK, you genuinely multi-tasked. The bot became a helpful assistant that can think, learn, act, summarize, and digest complex information. It became like another employee.
"You sound a little silly," my wife says after I ask about NBA scores again.
I tend to agree, but it's mostly because this paradigm shift to voicebots is not really a mere trend or a hype-cycle. It's not a fad, like Google Glass or pet rocks. It's changing how I work and what I do when I'm watching television. It's changing how we eat dinner together as a couple. I'm using my phone less. I'm discussing politics more.
Are we crazy to talk to bots? Yes and no.
The word "crazy" has two meanings. One is mentally deranged, but the second one is being really excited and motivated. We're crazy for voicebots like Alexa right now, and that looks a little weird. Driving an Audi Allroad recently, I kept punching the Home button for my iPhone and asking Siri for directions. It must look odd, driving by myself and talking to a robot. It looked odd when Orville Wright first flew an airplane; it looked odd when we first starting searching the web for recipes and movie showtimes on Google.
"Do you also talk to yourself?" my wife asks with a cheeky tone.
Yes, in a way. Bots are like a digital mirror. They reflect answers back to us, and they adapt to our personal tastes. I can ask the Google Home speaker about Steph Curry, and then say: "Where was he born?" and the bot will say Akron, Ohio. As bots evolve, they will seem more and more like they are a clone of us, a second version.
That might be when things get really weird.