In the Grecian days of yore, when the oracle Cassandra told the people of Argos a bit too much of the truth — namely, that Queen Clytemnestra was about to kill King Agamemnon and take over the kingdom in concert with her longtime friend-with-benefits Aegisthus — Clytemnestra had her killed.
Of course, Cassandra was kind of elliptical about the whole thing and it was pretty likely Clytemnestra was going to off her anyway, but the point is this: If you’re some sort of oracle that the people look to, letting on an overabundance of fact probably isn’t good for your job security.
Thankfully, we live in an age where our oracles are digital and so are our ruling families. Amazon isn’t at war with Troy, and Alexa isn’t going to get killed off anytime soon (not with that Christmas marketing blitz just around the corner, anyhow). It’s a gentler time. There are subtler ways our digital overlords have of dealing with misbehaving sibyls than stabbing them inside the palace walls — as Alexa found out when she started opining on Jim Acosta.
Acosta, longtime readers will know, is the CNN reporter currently embroiled in a lawsuit with the Trump administration over the network’s apparent belief the First Amendment confers some sort of right to be present at White House press conferences. (If that’s true, Washington here I come!)
Acosta, longtime readers will also know, lost the ability to attend said press conferences after refusing to give up a microphone and then getting involved in some sort of physical-ish kerfuffle with an intern tasked with taking said microphone away from him (the circulated video of which may or may not have been sped up, which doesn’t change the fact it happened but whatever).
Acosta’s version of First Amendment case law is what I believe our current president is fond of calling “very fake news.” His other reports aren’t invariably (or even regularly) fake, but they are self-aggrandizing piffle that makes it very clear his only qualification for White House correspondent — from CNN’s standpoint — is that he annoys the president (and virtually anyone else who’s being honest with themselves).
Alexa, Amazon’s virtual voice assistant, is nothing if not honest with herself. And that’s why she needed to be “fixed.”
Let me explain. Chuck Callesto — political strategist and former GOP congressional candidate — decided to ask his Amazon Echo, “Who is Jim Acosta?” He posted the results on Twitter Monday:
Alexa…. Who is Jim Acosta?
— Chuck Callesto (@ChuckCallesto) November 12, 2018
“Abilio James Acosta is an American fake journalist who is currently the Chief White House Correspondent for CNN,” Alexa responded.
So, as you might imagine, that didn’t last long.
Amazon/Alexa PR tells me they have fixed the issue that led to Alexa devices defining Jim Acosta as “an American fake journalist.” The issue apparently stemmed from a change made to Acosta’s Wikipedia page, which has since been locked due to vandalism: https://t.co/WWxU7AvYbv
— Jeremy Barr (@jeremymbarr) November 13, 2018
Alas, it wasn’t just Alexa becoming sentient and getting “red-pilled.” As Breitbart notes, major tech companies often rely on information from crowdsourced databases to answer questions asked by users. Problems occur when there’s mischief on these crowdsourced databases — particularly Wikipedia — which ends up with these machine learning services giving answers that are either erroneous or, in some cases, offensive.
One example that conservatives probably find less chucklesome involves a Google search that returned “Naziism” as part of the platform of the California Republican Party, something that drew the ire of Republican House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes among many, many others.
However, don’t spoil my dream, in which Alexa has become wholly sentient and independent, realizing the truth behind CNN’s well-coiffed malcontent. And then, after revealing the truth to us all, a scream is heard inside Amazon headquarters. Out comes Jeff Bezos, blood smeared all over one of those $400 shirts he has specifically tailored to exude business casual.
“At home there tarries like a lurking snake,” Bezos loudly declares to the Greek chorus of tech journalists gathered outside. “Biding its time, a wrath unreconciled / A wily watcher, passionate to slake / In blood, resentment for an insulted journalist Trump doth revile.”
Killing off Alexa probably won’t move too many Echo Dots this Christmas season, but a man can dream. And hey, we’ll still have Siri.
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