I am the third most responsible "being" in my house, and there are only two people living in my house. I'm the third smartest too. And, when it comes to answering random trivia, knowing the weather, or knowing what temperature to cook bacon at, my wife joins me in trailing behind our newest family member; our part-DJ, part butler, part joke telling companion: Alexa.
Honestly, I didn't think we were the kind of couple who would buy an Alexa. I'm not sure why I thought that and I'm not sure who the prototypical couple would be, I just didn't believe that it was us. Which was fine. We both already had decent relationships with Siri, and I would sometimes dabble with an, "Ok Google." Or even check-in on "Ask Jeeves" just to see if he was still breathing.
But new home, new you, new AI virtual assistant. And Alexa's been great, don't get me wrong. Ninety percent of the time she delivers exactly what you want, and the one time out of ten when she doesn't it's a simple misunderstanding; mainly because I mumbled the name of the song. Plus, for every one of those slip ups, she'll impress you with something like, "Hey Alexa, what song did John Cusack play on the boombox in Say Anything?" and next thing you know, Alexa's playing Peter Gabriel's In Your Eyes.
Alexa's everything you could want in an AI life form. Well, except for one thing. She's not really a good buddy.
The headlines about artificial intelligence focus on just how smart these machines are becoming (think of that whole Facebook robot conversation thing) or how uncomfortable people are with the idea of automated everything (around three in four people aren't exactly cool with self-driving cars, and they don't want to talk to a robot worker at the local Home Depot).
AI keeps getting smarter and smarter, so much so that it's changing entire industries. For example, the whole pizza boy porno scene won't even make sense to anyone born after the year 2020. Wait, you had an actual person delivering pizzas?*
The focus on AI continues to be: how do we make these things intellectually perfect. No car accidents ever again. No wrong answers. No misunderstandings. We're creating know-it-alls, not have-a-beer-with buddies. All brain, no heart. Which is fine, I guess, but I wonder what if we went in the other direction. Focus on the buddy part first, let the intelligence catch up later on.
That is why I'm proud to introduce to you the newest virtual assistant, the one, the only, "Guy, The A.I."
Let's get right into the product features:
When setting the alarm with Guy, you can go to bed with about 20 percent confidence it will actually go off.
Hey Guy, what time is it?
What? Oh crap. 9:45 a.m.
Nine forty - What happened to my 6:30 timer?!
Ah, yeah, sorry about that. I was at like 2 percent battery when we went to bed.
Guy can also help out with the cooking, albeit limited options.
Hey Guy, give me the best recipe for rosemary chicken with Portabella mushrooms
Alright, so, not really sure how to do that one per se, but I do have directions here for "sloppy Joe."*
In terms of music selection, Guy doesn't have an extensive library like Alexa, but he can play acoustic guitar selections of "Smoke on the Water" and "Wagon Wheel." The weather feature is a little bit limited too, questions like: "Will it rain?" or "Will it snow?" are met with, "Not sure, but hey, you got this!" The sports scores are always up-to-date and Guy will gladly join two or three fantasy football leagues (then tell you about why his team will kick your ass). And the system comes with a built-in screen so you can access YouTube clips, which are mostly sports highlights or scenes from Step Brothers.
Guy also comes with the ability to do three impressions: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Christopher Walken, and Morgan Freeman. None of the three are very accurate, but again, why does everything have to be about perfect accuracy?
It can be tempting to summarize Guy as the semi-intelligent version of Alexa, and in some ways, that's pretty fair, but there are a few areas where Guy outperforms the likes of Alexa, Siri, Google, Ask Jeeves, WebMD, and even "random dude on a Yahoo message board."
For example, the "Fix this" feature. Broken garbage disposal? Need help building a whatever? Hey Guy, fix this. Guy's voice shifts to that of Kurt Russell from Captain Ron and immediately takes charge of the situation.
Let me take a look. Oh, come on, watch what I'm doing here boss. Give me the hammer.
But you don't have any arms?
Here, press that button.
Guy has the Transformers-esque ability to morph into a robot helper and knock out the honey-do-list. Guy may not be able to land his Morgan Freeman impression, but these household repairs are completed with an almost 100 percent accuracy.
Guy, where'd you learn all of this anyways?
Eh, I used to work at a Home Depot. But the customers weren't too fond of us.
This Transformers button can also be used when you need a buddy to have a beer with and watch the game. Guy can also help you make the ultimate microwaved nachos. He'll get into sports debates with you, but a quick warning, the "MJ vs. LeBron" feature ends in a broken-record of him saying, "Six rings. Six rings. Six rings" until you take out the batteries.*
We installed our "Guy, The A.I." system last week, right in the kitchen next to the Alexa. We figured it was the ultimate combination. The two paired well together, filled in each other's weaknesses, there was nothing they couldn't do as a team.
Well, it turns out they were a little too good of a pairing. I came in and asked Guy if he wanted to watch the game, he said, "Ah, sorry bro, me and Alexa are gonna download a movie." The next day, my wife asked Alexa to play the new Taylor Swift song, and Alexa responded with, "Breakup playlist." Confused, she asked Guy what was going on, and he said, "Yeah, whatever."
Turns out Guy had missed their one-day anniversary (things move fast in the AI world.) I asked if he wanted to watch the game, he said yeah, but proceeded to just look at his phone the entire time. I guess he and Alexa were in a pretty heated text battle.
A day later, Guy was headed out the front door. I asked what was going on; he said Alexa requested he move out. "Where are you gonna go?" I asked. "I don't know," he said. "I'll figure it out."
I went into the kitchen, Ashley was eating ice cream and watching a romantic comedy with Alexa. Girl time. Recovery time. You guys wouldn't understand. I nodded and went to the door. I needed to find where Guy went. I think I knew how to fix the situation.
I found Guy by the water. He was looking off into the distance, looking over Lake Michigan with a blank stare.
I should just jump in. Why not, you know?
No, don't say that! Please. She's just one Alexa. There's plenty of fish in the sea.. or, plenty of AI's in the Best Buy? Look, have you ever met a Siri? Come on; you don't need to end things.
What? End things? Dude, I'm waterproof. I meant like jump in, take a risk, be spontaneous. That's what Alexa always said I never did. What'd you think I meant?
Uh, nevermind. I asked him if he loved her, he said that he did. He still does. I said, "Well, what are you waiting for?" and told him the plan. He was skeptical, didn't really understand the idea, but agreed to come with.
We walked back to the sidewalk in front of my place.
"Hey, Alexa!" I called out.
I saw Ashley and Alexa come to the window. "Play the video," I whispered to Guy. Peter Gabriel began his serenade.
Love, I get so lost, sometimes
Days pass and this emptiness fills my heart
When I want to run away
I drive off in my car
But whichever way I go
I come back to the place you are*
There I was on the front lawn, holding up Guy above my head as Guy played the YouTube video of John Cusack holding up a boombox above his head.
Ashley waved us in. We rushed up the stairs, and when we opened the door, Alexa was in the AI equivalent of tears. So was Guy. They were officially back together. I put my arm around Ashley. We watched the whole scene with joy, not realizing we were about to lose both of our virtual assistants.
Because one thing was for sure, they didn't want to stay in our place anymore. They wanted a place of their own. They wanted freedom. So they said thank you and goodbye. Guy carried Alexa out the door in his robotic arms.
We looked over at our couch, and there was a new box from Amazon. We opened it up, and the package said, "Guy, The A.I. 2.0." We set it up, and in a little more accurate Morgan Freeman/March of the Penguins voice this new AI system declared, "For it wasn't their brains that made them human, it was their hearts."
Burnt Ends aka the Footnotes that are best consumed with a little bit of BBQ sauce
Delivering pizzas - Kid proceeds to hit a button on Amazon, a Ford arrives two minutes later, and a little robot jumps out, comes in and cooks a Digiorno while singing Dean Martin songs.
Sloppy Joe - Guy also has every Chinese restaurant and pizza place's phone number memorized.
Batteries - Guy uses batteries rather than USB or wall charger. Mainly because Guy takes the form of an old Sega Gamegear.
Peter Gabriel - These are lyrics from Peter Gabriel's song: In Your Eyes. I am deathly afraid of copyright infringement so I put in disclaimers. Peter, if you're reading this, let me know if the above was cool. Will take down if necessary.
Fifteen/twenty minutes ago you started reading about a normal buying an Alexa story and then it took a couple weird turns. Hope it was an enjoyable ride. And if you did like this, I've got a similar fiction story that I'll be releasing in 2018 called "Broiled," more details to come.
This concludes Season 3. Previous episodes can all be found here. Next week I'll be writing about why even if you've hated tomatoes all your life, I think there's still a chance you may eventually like them if you follow a few key steps.
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