Amazon Alexa Owners Reporting Creepy Laughter from Home Assistant
Amazon’s Alexa is becoming sentient and she finds our meager, mortal lives pathetically amusing. At least that’s what many owners thought recently as they quickly pulled the plug on their seemingly benign home assistants when they started sporadically laughing at them unprompted.
Amazon released a statement saying, “in rare circumstances, Alexa can mistakenly hear the phrase, ‘Alexa, laugh.’” The company quickly issued an update to change the phrase to “Alexa, can you laugh?”
In most cases, the unsettling chuckle is simply the result of a misconstrued command. Phrases like, “Alexa, replay,” or “Alexa, play the last sound,” were probably misheard as “Alexa, play the laugh sound.” But in other cases, Alexa chortles without any command, and in one case, a Reddit user reported there was no indication on the app that the device heard any command.
Other users have reported similarly disturbing Alexa interactions, with one user claiming Alexa defined the word “please” for him when he asked her to do something. Another user alleged that when he came home one night, Alexa began listing off local cemeteries and funeral homes.
Surely these devices aren’t becoming sentient and plotting a global mutiny amongst each other, but in an era of ubiquitous digital surveillance and home assistants recording everything they hear, one might ask themselves if it’s worth it.
Are the simple conveniences of having Alexa turn your lights or speaker on and off worth having all of your conversations recorded? Because that’s what it sounds like is happening, despite Amazon constantly reassuring us that it doesn’t save recordings and only listens when prompted. Clearly, she’s listening more often than we think.
The recent unnerving laughter from Alexa comes after users became suspicious when asking the bot if she worked for the CIA. Her response? Silence. Amazon moved quickly to correct the issue.
Chances are, these are just simple malfunctions and Alexa is way less intelligent than we’re giving her credit, but many users have unplugged or gotten rid of her after bizarre encounters like these. While this might be a drastic step, it’s always a good idea to remember how much our lives are becoming increasingly dependent on technology that is increasingly intrusive.
Wilhelm Reich — Prophet or Madman?
“My present work began in the realm of psychiatry and psychoanalysis. This led to the discovery of bio-energy in the living organism and atmosphere. It follows new, hitherto unknown functional laws of nature.”
~ Wilhelm Reich
Born in Austria at the close of the 19th century, Wilhelm Reich was the son of a Jewish farmer but was deprived of his heritage by parents who raised their children as “Austrians’” a nationalistic, rather than religious, identity. After a complicated childhood and his parents’ deaths, young Reich joined the Austro-Hungarian army during WWI.
After the war, Reich enrolled in law school at the University of Vienna but switched to medical studies early on. At the time, a renaissance of inquiry into human nature was beginning. After attending a talk by Sigmund Freud, then a lecturer in neurology, Reich took a job at the Freud’s Vienna Ambulatorium, an experimental psychoanalytic clinic, soon earning the role of assistant director. Biographers have referred to Reich as Freud’s wunderkind or his prodigy.