Echo Chamber

A friend asked recently what I thought of the Amazon Echo and whether or not I was concerned by privacy issues surrounding the platform. The friend knows we have a number of the devices in our home.

The issue goes along the lines of the the Echo being able to "hear" at all times since it is listening for the wakeword (ours is currently set to "Computer" since I'm a Star Trek nerd). As a result, it's clear that Amazon is taping every sound that is made in our homes and sending directly to law enforcement / the NSA / the CIA / insurance companies / pick your poison.

Obviously, that's not the case but the line of thinking is definitely circulated regularly on social media and in conversations by people with just enough exposure or information about a product or service to make an uneducated and biased claim.

Sort of like politics, I guess.

The internet promised us democratization of knowledge. It has definitely delivered that. It exposes us to new ideas, thought patterns, technologies, tools, services, images, videos, and music we'd never experience otherwise. I remember relishing my set of World Books as a 12 year old because they gave me knowledge and escape.

What the internet hasn't done is given us a sense of perspective or inquisitiveness. Our limbic system is predicated on our survival, and we often listen to our lizard brain when a new thought technology threatens how we thought we understand this strange concept we call existence.

We need other mechanisms for that perspective and inquisitiveness. Otherwise, the internet can be a powerful sounding board to provide reaffirmation of what we already thought we knew or believed.

Having access to information (textual, visual, video, or audio) does not make one an expert.

Sort of like politics, I guess.

As we transition from fingers to voice as the primary input mechanism for computing it will become even more important to recognize the need for deeper human learning just as we push the boundaries of what deeper machine learning means. Our democracies on the web and in politics depend on it.

We have an Amazon Echo or Amazon Dot in most every room of our house. It's fantastic technology, and I enjoy the ability to perform both simple and complex computing tasks by using our collection of assistants.

"But Sam," my friend might say, "sure it's great that you can turn on your lights or play Bowie or add things to your calendar by just speaking into the void in your den, but what about your privacy?".

To quote Dylan, "play it loud."

Sam Harrelson

I'm the head of Harrelson Agency where we consult with small businesses, nonprofits, churches, and community groups about marketing. | Phone: 803-463-9039 | [email protected]

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