109 Comments

Always a gift…. Language and the gift of relating…. The Bulwark is just that!!!! Sharing and with “words”…. “WE” ARE!!!! Indeed…. And at 87, it soooooo matters…. Thank you. (-:

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Voice will make a comeback. It made progress this round but didn't become transformative. After the disillusionment hangover it will come back again and make another stab at becoming a staple interface.

I do hope Alexa limps along in the meantime though. I've had several for 5+ years now. They act as intercoms, music players, dictionaries, calculators, grocery list writers, kitchen timers, and bus alarms. They aren't indispensable but it would be difficult to replace all that functionality cheaply and effectively.

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I never used Alexa or Siri. Amazon knows what it needs to know about me without Alexa's contribution, and I do not own any Apple products, so Siri was never on my menu. I never saw the point of either one, other than people are just too lazy to look up an item themselves, or needed to make an unnecessary phone call while driving.

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The only thing better than telling someone else’s Alexa to “play Iron Maiden” is doing it over a zoom call.

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Ditched my Alexa a couple of years ago when the ads on Google started to resemble my crazy Alexa requests. I have had a Siri device for a couple of years now. I don't miss any of the stupid games in the Echo. My home pods work fine as cooking timers, whole-house speakers, and weather announcers. I was even able to switch my voice-activated automation to the home pod minis. Now if my dogs only stop throwing them to each other for fetch games, life would be perfect. >.<

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Feb 26·edited Feb 26

I feel so foolish, I didn’t know she had passed. I would have sent flowers

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A really enjoyable, informative Saturday Triad. Thank you. My only problem was that every time I hit Like instead of the Heart turning red, my screen went directly to the Comment section. So please consider this my ❤️

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In his wonderful play Arcadia, Tom

Stoppard has a great monologue about how all the lost plays of Sophocles will be written again.

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Feb 26Liked by Jonathan V. Last

Downeaster Alexa!, I was an IT man like my father was before, but they don’t write programming for guys like me anymore

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Feb 26Liked by Jonathan V. Last

All three of today's topics formed a delightful harmonic chord for me. Reading the newsletter transported me far from the weekday gumbo of news, politics, clickbait and email traffic. God bless you, JVL, for this oh-so-pleasant relief.

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I mourn the death of Alexa but I predict she/they will return in some fashion. I know this is the case because Ray Bradbury saw it before me and showed us all in Martian Chronicles. And there shall come soft rains ... my favorite chapter.

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One lost opportunity for voice interface is the disabled. My friend was loosing his eye sight, dealing with diabetes and the aftermath of a stroke. As he became more dependant on another person to move around or do things, he increases his use of Alexa. He was so happy he could check game times and scores of his beloved Dodgers. I think it would be great to look at it through the eyes of assisting the disabled or housebound to improve quality and easy if living.

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A couple of these comments got me thinking along similar lines today.

Karlsson talks about being born in '89 and thus among the last the last to remember a time before the internet. How this world changing technology grew and developed alongside, and intertwined with, his own. I sometimes wonder how different I might be if the same were true for me.

As you might infer from my screen name, I was born in '73, and am thus among the youngest people to grow up entirely without the internet. More accurately, what we call "the internet" today is what at first we called the Web (some might recall the "information superhighway" branding). By most accounts "the internet" as an operational physical network was born the same year as me, but the HTTP protocol, allowing users the ability to navigate through web pages and hyperlinks, was unleashed on the world in text form the year I graduated high school, and in graphic form in the middle of my undergraduate days. It's the latter, of course, that brought the internet to most people's attention (including me).

It's maybe because of this that I have a particular nostalgia for simpler times, which is something I never thought I would say growing up. I was never anti-technology; in fact I felt lucky to be growing up when I was. I couldn't imagine how dull life must have been before television (my father told of being 14 when his family first owned one). Moreover, the increasing proliferation of electronic amusements throughout my youth (I mean, playing video games at home?! Get outta here!) promised an exciting future, one that I was eager to embrace. I learned BASIC programming as a pre-teen, eagerly consuming the code listings in "3-2-1 Contact" magazine, as I thrilled to observe the advancements in computer technology every few years. I was ready for the future.

I don't know when it was that technology started to seem like it was suddenly going too fast. Perhaps it was as a technical professional, experiencing the disillusionment of hard-won expertise becoming obsolescent. Perhaps it was watching the internet morph from a computer nerd's paradise of open-source code and online gaming into a digital version of the mall, where the cool kids now hung out despite having little appreciation for what they'd been gifted by the outcasts they'd always looked down upon.

Or maybe it was when it all just started to feel like too much. When some people honestly started believing that the baloney sci-fi future we'd all been ingesting in the form of countless books, TV shows and movies for all our lives was actually just around the corner and now worth carb-loading and sprinting toward. As if we hadn't learned anything from the conspicuous absence of our long yearned for jet-packs, people are now talking about creating conscious androids and downloading our minds into computer storage – stuff that most (but not all) people with significant technological expertise recognize as fanciful nonsense, but which people with a more casual relationship to technology take more seriously.

Maybe this is why I have never liked talking to computers, and stubbornly refuse to use voice technology, despite the fact that my parents have no problem with it. My voice is for communicating with people, and if I were to embrace the convenience of voice commands, I would prefer it to be without the familiarity of normal conversational speech (using some abbreviated set of explicit commands) and certainly not by invoking it with a human name. Maybe this is silly and obsessive, but I'm not alone. For example, there has actually been some concern among child psychologists about possible social developmental harms of children interacting with Alexa and Siri in a person-like style, without getting the feedback that would normally mediate and regulate our social interactions.

But beyond this, I see an overall reluctance among people to embrace things that blur the lines too much between the simulated, artificial world of technology and the real world of human beings. I think it's why VR and AR have proven costly failures, why 3D video has never been more than a fun gimmick, and why I am more sanguine about the threat of AI. One could argue there's even a loose relationship to the failure of cryptocurrency, in that it's simply too disconnected from the tangible and real (although the biggest disconnect there regards its lack of connection to the world of real problems in need of solving).

And yes, I suspect it is perhaps related to why Alexa and Siri have only been moderately successful. It all just feels like too much. And I find this incredibly heartening and reassuring.

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Why am I completely and totally unsurprised that JVL knows about Fogbank?

I included it in a campaign I was GMing once, and my players objected to it being ridiculous...

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I scrapbook with real printed pictures. I also hand write in my journals. Why do I do such things? Why do I bother. After all, I have thousands of pictures in my google account, facebook account, on my phone, at Shutterfly, Amazon, etc. My "works could burn up in a fire, be damaged in a flood, my children may throw them away after I die. I may lose them because I have to move and can't take them with me.

On the other hand, I have lost pictures and written work when a website malfunctioned or went out of business. Or my computer started "smoking" and pictures not backed up were gone forever.

I've

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Comment about ECHO. I'm amazed I had enough energy left in my tank to read the whole of today's Bulwark, well most of it, because I'm three days removed from shoulder replacement surgery and today is the first day without a nerve blocker to provide relief and energy. Anyway, ECHO, just recently I got an ECHO Show for the frontroom as well as two smaller ECHO Dots for each bedroom and the light bulbs that work with them. I am sad to read that Amazon has started to stop development of this technology or to support it or whatever they are doing with it. The advent of the light bulbs being controlled by my voice has saved me from walking in the dark from room to room, has saved me from falling trying to reach a lamp with one arm anchored to my body, and from being unable to reach the knob on the lamp by my bed to turn it off at night. All technology may be intrusive and undesirable but some of it is a God-send. That's all I wanted to say, now it's nap time.

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