Alexa, why won’t you re­ply to my fa­ther?

The Oneida Daily Dispatch (Oneida, NY) - - Opinion - Tom Pur­cell Colum­nist

Is tech­nol­ogy in­no­va­tion do­ing us more harm than good? My fam­ily of­fers proof that it is.

My par­ents re­cently got Ama­zon’s sup­pos­edly “in­tel­li­gent” per­sonal as­sis­tant, Alexa.

Ask Alexa to play a song and she will (through her speaker).

Ask her to turn the lights on or off, and, if they’re plugged into a “smart” de­vice, she’ll do that, too.

Ask her about the weather, news, traf­fic or sports and she’ll search the in­ter­net for an­swers.

But Alexa is caus­ing in­cred­i­ble tur­moil at my par­ents’ house.

“Amanda,” said my fa­ther the other day, “can you turn down the mu­sic?”

“Her name is Alexa,” said my mother, oddly pro­tec­tive of her new vir­tual friend. “If you don’t call her ‘Alexa,’ she won’t re­spond.”

“AlexIS,” said my fa­ther, “stop play­ing mu­sic so loudly!” “Alexa!” said my mother. “That’s what I said!” shouted my fa­ther.

“Sorry,” said Alexa. “I don’t know what you’re re­fer­ring to.”

“I said turn down the damn mu­sic!” said my fa­ther.

“Don’t talk to her like that!” said my mother, point­ing her finger at him.

“For God’s sake, Betty,” said my fa­ther, storm­ing off in search of his print news­pa­per, “AlexIS ig­nores me worse than you do!”

My par­ents also re­cently in­stalled a home video-sur­veil­lance sys­tem that my sis­ters and I mon­i­tor on our smart­phones.

The other morn­ing, the sys­tem no­ti­fied us that some­one was on my par­ents’ front porch. Open­ing the app, I saw a man, about 40, pound­ing on the door.

He wore a flan­nel shirt, dirty pants and scuffed boots. He had bags un­der his eyes and was fid­gety.

“Let me in!” he said in a raspy, de­monic whis­per. “Let ... me ... in!”

Alarmed, I ac­ti­vated the in­ter­com.

“May I help you?” I said force­fully through the sys­tem’s out­door speaker. He mut­tered some­thing, then turned away.

“What do you want?” I shouted. He ran down the steps. I called my par­ents’ house. No­body an­swered. I called my old­est sis­ter. She an­swered im­me­di­ately.

“A drug ad­dict is try­ing to get in­side Mom and Dad’s house!” she shouted.

“I’m call­ing the cops!” I said, then did as I jumped into my truck and floored it.

Ar­riv­ing a few min­utes later, I dis­cov­ered that the “drug ad­dict” was ac­tu­ally a plumber my fa­ther had hired.

The plumber wanted to get in­side the house be­cause he was cold. He ran down the steps be­cause my fa­ther had just opened the garage door to let him in.

Af­ter apol­o­giz­ing to the po­lice for all of the hul­la­baloo - they were sur­pris­ingly po­lite to the lat­est id­iot to over­re­act to his video-sur­veil­lance pow­ers - I slunk back to my truck and got the heck out of there.

In this era of nasty tweets and Face­book in­sults, re­ports Psychology To­day, tech­nol­ogy is mak­ing us ruder. But it’s not just that.

So­cial me­dia, ac­cord­ing to var­i­ous stud­ies, is mak­ing us more iso­lated, more de­pressed and less con­nected with our fel­low hu­man be­ings. But it’s not just that.

Face­book, Google and Alexa know way more about us than most peo­ple are aware. But it’s not just that, ei­ther.

It’s that, de­spite tech­nol­ogy’s many ben­e­fits, we now know way too much about way too many things. As my fam­ily shows, our mas­sive daily in­for­ma­tion flow is caus­ing us more grief than ben­e­fit. Don’t be­lieve me? Ask Alexa. And don’t call her “AlexIS!”

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