Before I can write about AI and the applications of it to my studies, I must first talk about my Nemesis Alexa. I was an enthusiastic, early user of Alexa. I was completely captivated by the idea of having her respond on command. I bought an Echo Dot for every room in the house. I initially used it to wake up the kids, create morning task list for them, wake me up, remind me turn off the porch lights, play my favorite songs, create my grocery list, and manage my Amazon orders. We even used/use Alexa to play storm sounds to help us fall asleep. It was working quite well for us. And then one day Alexa started to become inconsistent with me, she stopped responding to me and only responded to my husband. I would ask a question and she would not light up or respond and Larry would ask the same question and she would respond. There were other weird things that began to make me feel like Alexa could not be trusted. I am suspicious of her. I am not the only one, a have heard other people express the same feelings towards my Nemesis. It is a struggle to balance the convenience of Alexa and the intrusive nature of her presence in our home. For now, I only use her for sleep sounds at bedtime, yet I must admit I wonder if she is whispering subliminal messages in my husband’s ear throughout the night. Again, I am not the only one with these concerns. My friend is convinced that Alexa is flirting with her husband, that her tone is much nicer when she responds to him. It may seem odd but the idea that Alexa is adapting her behavior to our needs is reasonable, in fact that is the purpose. It is what is expected, and it is what we like about her until it starts to feel a bit creepy.
What are the Dangers?
I feel like I am dating myself by expressing my fear of what AI means in our everyday lives. I remember as a child being excited about the idea of robots and being convinced that I would one day have a robotic maid like they had on the Jetsons. I could not imagine that I would be able to program a device to recite my grocery list, anticipate my shopping needs or play my favorite music. I admit that I enjoy the ease of use, but I maintain a fear of going too far. Where do we draw the line? I know that my age (I never thought I would say this) plays a part in my hesitancy to fully embrace AI. I tested this theory; I asked my children about AI, and they laughed. It is incorporated and fully embraced in their experiences that it does not seem odd to them. They have AI versions of themselves, they use it for research, and they stay abreast of new applications and usages of AI. They have no fear, only excitement about how it will continue to make their lives easier and more interesting. And then there are possibilities that I have yet to explore that extend beyond my Alexa experience. The ability to use it for research, the ability to bring concepts to life is fascinating. Listening to Sal Kahn’s TedTalk opened up an entirely different perspective for me. The opportunity to debate with AI and engage in conversations with research subjects opens up a world of possibilities. Is it really possible to talk to the Mississippi River? It is really possible to have a conversation with Jay Gatsby? Is it healthy to do so? Will it blur the lines between reality and AI?
Limits and Possibilities of AI
AI is here to stay! I believe that there are benefits to utilizing it in my studies. Research and Editing are the most useful ways for me to incorporate AI into my work. Yet, for me, it begins and ends there. I have not embraced using it for constructing emails or prose. It just doesn’t feel authentic to me. I enjoy my own voice and want it to remain present in its natural form when I communicate. I was actually surprised at how many of my friends use AI to construct and respond to emails. It may sound silly, but it feels like they are cheating or taking the easy way out. But I also feel that way about sending a text as a thank you instead of a handwritten note. Some things are just engrained in me from my Southern upbringing. Perhaps I will grow to see the benefits of utilizing AI but for now, I will continue to write my own emails and stay on the safe side of AI usage.