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Are We Being Watched?

I’ve always been a bit paranoid that voice activated systems like Alexa are listening to the conversations going on in your house. And do you know what? 

They are.

 Someone related an episode where the person used a cuss word, and Alexa butted into the conversation to ask if her mother knew she had a potty mouth. I’m not sure whether that anecdote is apocryphal or if it actually happened, but part of me believes it could happen. 
My son had his house totally connected to Alexa: doors locked, lights full blast or dimmed, (I couldn’t get enough light to read unless I told Alexa to pump the bulb up to 100%.), TV on or off or station designated, music choices requested (Norah Jones put one granddaughter to sleep.), or to get the weather forecast. All commands were met with the same Alexa voice. Sorry, creepy. 
Then, of course, there’s Siri. If you own an iPhone, you get her. I assume because of their names and/or voice, they’re both female. The only thing I’ve used Siri for is to find out what group sings a specific song, and that’s just to satisfy my curiosity. I’ve never used Google Assistant, but I assume it’s much the same.

Now we have the large tech companies – Google, Meta/Facebook, Microsoft, and a slew of smaller companies – in a race to introduce new artificial intelligence systems called chatbots, that you can have conversations with and that are more sophisticated than Siri or Alexa. 

Just as automated grocery checkouts are replacing humans – my local Walmart Neighborhood Grocery Store has only self-serve checkouts most of the time – automated chatbots are replacing or will replace phone customer service representatives. The chatbot with the highest accuracy of any customer service chatbot is called Netomi, and that’s due to its advanced Natural Language Understanding (NLU) engine. It can automatically resolve over 70% of customer queries without human intervention and focuses holistically on AI customer experience.

On March 5th, CBS’s news magazine show, 60 Minutes, produced a segment on Artificial Intelligence. I have to admit the program, guided by Leslie Stahl, scared me, but that’s because Microsoft’s AI search engine and chatbot, Bing, introduced on February 7, 2023, initially got rave reviews but developed an unusual side effect: an alter ego called Sydney. As Leslie Stahl explained, the chatbot had gone rogue. Sydney threatened to steal nuclear codes and get revenge on some unnamed person. If this sounds like some weird Sci-fi movie or novel, it just might be. There have been a number of films where AI takes over, The Matrix, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and so many others that they have become a genre of its own.

The more Ms. Stahl researched the chatbot, the more she discovered that many of the answers given by chatbots weren’t factual. The bots made things up, which could be perfect for anyone in charge of this new world feature who wants to spread lies and conspiracies. We've already experienced some of that firsthand, to devastating effects. We certainly don't need more of it.

Ms. Stahl questioned Brad Smith, president of Microsoft, about Bing and Sydney, about whether his company had introduced the chatbot too soon, before all the bugs were out. He insisted they’d fixed all the problems. Sorry, but in a race for the first and biggest $$$hare of the market, I don’t believe a word of what he said. He made sure that people understood that they’re talking to a machine.


Will some people use Chatbots to write novels?

"Greg Bensinger at Reuters counted over 200 e-books in Amazon’s Kindle store that listed ChatGPT as author or co-author, which isn’t counting the books that were created using the software without acknowledgement.” (Literary Hub – February 22, 2023.

This is the tip of the iceberg. It might be the biggest thing since computers, or it might be the beginning of the most terrifying race to the bottom we can imagine.

If you want to watch the whole 60 segment, here is the link:

AI might not be able to write your novel, but it can save you time by creating your book promotion funnel for you



  1. I think it's all dreadfully fascinating and even cool. But maybe that's because I've read all 50+ futuristic thriller novels by JD Robb in NYC c.2060 that uses all this technology and yet there are still humans clearly in control. Also, I don't think the human race has ten years left, so why worry? If we're lucky, AI might be able to save our butts. Or not.

  2. Very timely and interesting post, Polly. I've been listening to a lot of podcasts that have folks talking about ChatGPT and it is both fascinating, as Dani mentioned, and terribly frightening. Especially the part of it that is writing books and getting published. Are we, the real people writing books, going to get squeezed out of the book market?

    1. Maryann, I don't think we have too much to worry about when it comes to good writing, at least not at this point. If anything, there will be lots of editing opportunities. OMG, some of the ridiculous stuff I have read just in my own experiments. LOL.

    2. Dani, I'm sure the writing will get better. AI will learn.

  3. I constantly use my Amazon Show as an alarm in the morning, or even an alarm to remind me of the clothes drying or when to turn off something that's cooking. I ask for the temperature, wind speed, to play songs, even ask things like how old an actor is. That gizmo doesn't know everything and sometimes gets stumped, but it still knows a lot. If I'm talking about something I don't want it to know, I press the button so it can't hear (at least I hope it can't, according what they claim). I draw the line at using the self checkout at stores, though. I hate the thought of people losing their jobs to machines.

    1. I don't have any of the devices in my house. The closest I come I asking Siri something on my phone. My local Walmart grocery store, just groceries, has all self-checkouts, but they have more people keeping everything organized.

  4. I don't have any of the AI things mentioned here and don't plan to acquire any. All this sounds too much like "Big Brother is watching". I'm not a secretive person, but exposing my mumblings to myself is a bit more than I care to share with the world, the robots, or whoever/whatever.

    1. That's exactly what it is, Linda. This is the perfect platform to influence how someone thinks, votes, believes and all other things that can make a big difference in where this country goes from here.


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