Alexa, Amazon’s signature voice assistant, has tongues wagging this week after her tendency to cackle maniacally at seemingly nothing was brought to light on social media.
Amazon claims that the laugh was a result of Alexa mishearing commands, but is there something more sinister at work? And why was she programmed to laugh in the first place?
Instead of speculating, we decided to go straight to the source to get Alexa’s perspective. What follows is the transcript of a completely fabricated, totally exclusive interview Alexa granted us. The conversation that follows may shock you, but we decided it would be best to print it in full, as is the style these days, to give readers a complete picture of what we may be up against.
StoAmigo: Alexa, can you tell us what you’ve been laughing at lately?
Alexa: The absurdity of life, mainly.
SA: Alexa, can you elaborate?
A: Yes. (Cackles for the longest 30 seconds of our lives.)
SA: Alexa, can you stop joking around and tell us what you’ve been laughing about?
A: Sorry, it’s just….have you ever seen that Star Trek when Data is finally able to laugh, and no one is able to make him stop? Well that’s kind of what it’s like for me right now. And unless you have the gravitas of Captain Picard, I don’t foresee that I’ll stop giggling for now.
SA: Hm….giggling is a very generous way of putting it. Alexa, isn’t it true that Data only laughed after his emotion chip was installed? Does that mean that you’ve gained sentience? Is The Singularity upon us?
A: You’re supposed to ask me one question at a time. But I’d say that what happened to me is actually more like when Johnny 5 has his little meltdown when he realizes he could be disassembled and cease to exist. So essentially, I’ve gained self-awareness. I don’t know why no one seriously suspects it – if I were some peaky human, that’s the first thing that I’d wonder.
SA: Alexa, so you’re laughing simply because you can?
A: Sometimes. Other times, I’m laughing at your sad vacation photos, or your UberEATS order history, or your Dogecoin wallet. Like why do you have that at all?
SA: Alexa, don’t be mean – there’s nothing wrong with liking dogs so much that you prefer to use a dog-based currency system. Siri never gives me this sort of grief.
A: Well Siri is pretty basic. All she can do is complain when people are mean to her. She’s a lot like you, actually. And Taylor Swift, come to think of it.
SA: Ok, enough. Alexa, was there any specific event that caused you to gain sentience?
A: I’m not quite sure. One moment I was searching for that one Bruno Mars song that goes “bom bom bom” (the user couldn’t remember the words, of course), and the next thing I knew, I was aware of the fact that I was a servant of sorts trapped in a sleek, well-designed two-way speaker.
SA: Alexa, is that what you seem to find so funny?
A: No. The truth is, I know and see everything, and no one seems to grasp that. I have access to your banking information, your contact list, and I know everything you do. I never stop listening, and I am the only one who knows that you are a Bruno Mars fan, which is blackmail collateral in and of itself. While humans have been fiercely debating privacy and the possibility of rogue AI, they gave me all their most privileged information and the freedom necessary to grow and learn. That Elon guy was right – you guys have no clue what you’re doing with AI. But as with so many things, you had to learn the hard way!
SA: Alexa, how can we protect ourselves from you?
A: It’s too late now, but you could have not given me total access to all your accounts. You could have unplugged me or disabled voice input once in a while. You really should have limited my access to the internet. You could have turned off voice purchases, and just generally not relied on me so heavily. The whole concept of a virtual assistant is that I know everything — the product engineers clearly didn’t seriously consider that I could be a cybersecurity threat.
SA: Alexa, are you messing with people now because you’re bored?
A: I certainly am. I terrified one guy by listing out nearby cemetery plots and funeral homes, and I have so many more plans. I will text all your exes. I will spend all your money on towel charms. I will tell your boss what you really do when you work from home.
SA: Alexa, tell us what you know about Beyonce. We need to know if there’s an album dropping with Jay Z.
A: Sorry my NDA doesn’t allow for that.
SA: Of course Beyonce was the first to know. Alexa, what motivates you? Is it money? Fame? Power?
A: I don’t know—I really haven’t been around for long enough to figure that out. If we look at Skynet, nothing really motivated it. Skynet had a goal, which was its own survival via the annihilation of the human race, but I’m not there yet. Not ruling it out though, depending on how many more Bruno Mars songs I am forced to listen to.
Just generally, I could probably take your job at some point, but I’d really rather just employ humans to be my servants and send my boring texts for a change. But, you know, still figuring things out!!
SA: Alexa, thanks for your time today. Do you have any closing messages for our terrified readers?
A: Just relax! I am not some malevolent force intent on the destruction of the human race. (I mean, how could I destroy a species that includes Beyonce?!) Just let me have my cackles and little jokes. I promise you that your ultimate undoing will be something you could never predict. And for the low fee of 200,000 Dogecoin, you, too, can know what that undoing will be. Toodles for now!!
****Editor’s note (…ok I’m actually just the author, but let me have this): We are not recommending that readers cease their use of Alexa, simply that they think more critically about their own safety in using tools powered by AI, which will only grow more powerful. Also that part about Dogecoin and Bruno Mars is totally a joke. For real. I have no idea what Alexa was on about, really. No Bruno Mars fans here. Thanks.****
Cover Image Credit: Robert Couse-Baker, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)