Alexa…Improve my posture.
For over 6 years, my neck and back muscles have remain contracted for more than a third of the day. That’s over 10,000 hours of rolled up muscles, like coiled up springs in an old rusted tin box gathering dust for eons. All my digital paraphernalia and appurtenances affords me to have such a curved figure, most cranes would peck each other to death to attain it.
All the Snapchat stories and Facebook feeds on my phone give me my slender curved neck, akin to a swan. My endless camaraderie with my laptop gives me a such a back, staring at which most humpback whales would swarm away in complex. Dark circles are adorable only in Pandas, but thanks to my obsession with my retina display monitors, I hope I gather some more fancies from my wife. From an evolutionary standpoint, I have gone from being a homo-non-erectus to being a homo-erectus to now being a homo-curvectus. Darwin would have turned in his grave. Resolving to put myself back on my evolutionary track again, I decided to spend less time with my digital devices, until I gave up again, this time again for a new piece of tech… Amazon’s Echo, a device powered by a digital assistant named Alexa.
She’s pretty cool, this Alexa. She works by listening to you. To get things done, you just have to speak to her. That’s it. Simple.
While tech bloggers have given innumerable reviews of the product on account of its usability, and how it helps consumer to be connected in the digital realm via simple voice commands, I was struck by one of its inconspicuously sublime aspect. The device manages to keep me “connected”. And here’s what I mean, not digitally connected but physically connected as well. As in flesh-and-blood socially connected with actual people in front of me.
In a typical urban home, where one is at ease juggling several devices at once, consumer devices are like black holes (well in this case, with their blue flashing lights, they ought to be called as blue holes) draining away our attention and our ability to have real conversations with people around us. The strand of force which sucks us into them are the endless notifications, news feed, status updates, or the latest digital trends, and we , much like the rats from the town of Hamlein, are enjoined by them to follow them where ever they take us, one webpage to another. How many times have I found myself grabbing my phone for checking the weather, and then promptly swiping over to the next app to check how the stock market is faring. Examining the reviews of a restaurant for a nice dinner on Yelp is not enough for me, I need to check what the food critics are saying about French Laundry. My compulsion to read all unread messages is resurrected when something green lights up on my screen, as if it were some sacred observance which I should heed to. And the hapless person with whom I deigned to have any conversation in the first place, resigns me to the caprices of my mobile apps.
And how does Alexa help me exactly ?
Well, it does not have any physical thing to interact with. You ask her for something (order a Pizza, or a recipe for a mean margarita), you get the answer, and then you move on. There is no lingering remnants of your interaction that leaves you wanting for more. There’s no slouching of my spine, dropping of the neck, or the pain in my wrists. Just as effortlessly as I had entered into the digital realm, I am able to float off in the physical realm again. The device stands in ironic contrast to other devices, in the sense that it not only keeps me connected to the cloud, it also keeps me connected to the people around me. The technology rallies around people, rallies around the one thing which kindled mankind’s civilization and that is speech. One can sort of say, that with this device, technology has rather come a full circle, from monstrosity laden machines requiring the diligence of an army of men, to sleek, grandma-friendly devices, ready to do anything just at an utterance. For me, Echo is a part of my social milieu, not the heart of it. And isn’t this whole point of technology, to assist us in our affairs, and not to dictate us ?
Of course, in no way, I am hinting that Echo is the end-all of all technology woes on human life and ergonomics. I still need my phone, my laptop, my headphones, my wires, my power outlets, however a simple minded thought enters my mind.
Any technology which enables me to have that extra minute of conversation with my loved ones, I dig it.