They are listening to us.
In case you're wondering about the creepy Amazon Alexa bot sitting in your kitchen: I mean, it is actually listening. Recording what we say, processing it, dissecting it, parsing it out. Speakers like the Amazon Echo are always on and always listening. Just a few days ago, the Alexa bot interrupted a conversation I was having with my kids and told me the weather. Not for any other reason than: The bot is listening.
Time to worry? Maybe.
A brand new speaker that just debuted this week called the Google Nest Mini has a really interesting feature that is either the most wonderful advancement in artificial intelligence in recent months or is a sign that we are all doomed and should move to a bunker.
I'm talking about the ability to adjust itself on the fly. The Nest Mini will listen to your commands, knowing how often you ask the bot to open the garage door in your connected home or that you constantly check the weather. It won't pause and think as often because over time the Nest Mini knows you. It customizes itself to your preferences and interests. It learns more and more about you over time, and it even knows which bands you like.
A case in point: Let's say you love classic folk-rock. I'm guilty, I hear you. And, so does the Google Nest Mini because it can process a request to play that music faster than other commands. If you are already an Amazon Echo user you know there's sometimes a delay in queuing up songs and radio stations. That has now changed.
The Nest Mini also monitors the room for background noise. If you are talking really loud or there's construction going on, for example, the Next Mini will adjust the volume.
These are wonderful new features, and not that troubling. I want my bots to know me and understand me, and provide helpful functions that improve my life.
What is more troubling is the future scenario when bots listen, respond, and perform tasks all without our knowledge. The robotic advancements we enjoy now and will benefit from in the future are wonderful, but there's also a possible scenario where we won't really know what is going on. Today, we can control our home temp by voice, for example. Once we get to the point where we never have to think about home temperature, we won't know exactly how that works or what is happening technically.
For now, I like the Nest Mini. I played songs by the band Foals and was pleasantly surprised by home much Google has improved the bass on such a small speaker. The fabric used on the Mini seems more durable. It comes in trendy colors.
I can't say I know how the AI actually works. I know it is based on complex algorithms that analyze the room and process what I say to the Google Assistant bot.
After that, who knows?