Amazon Prime members can now watch the ultimate cautionary tale against smart homes…like Amazon’s Alexa

Amazon Prime members can now watch the ultimate cautionary tale against smart homes…like Amazon’s Alexa

Many people are afraid of Amazon’s Alexa (at AmazonSmile: benefit a non-profit of your choice by shopping*) and other smart home devices.

In some cases, they fear what human beings can do with the information (which might be obtained through intentional interaction, or observation, visual or audible). They may not be comfortable with Amazon knowing so much about them.

In others, it is concern about the technology itself. It might fail to function, malfunction…or perhaps, in some future, develop its own agenda.

The last one may seem ridiculous, but it’s been part of our pop culture consciousness for a very long time…going back at least as far as Karel Čapek’s 1924

play R.U.R. (at AmazonSmile*)

Whether they call it the “robot rebellion” or “the singularity”, the concept of human-created intelligence developing independence and using it to dominate its creators is firmly established.

This was especially true in 1970s science fiction cinema. Colossus: the Forbin Project (at AmazonSmile*) is one example (and a personal favorite). That one is available for streaming through the Hoopla public library service, as indicated by JustWatch.

Another one, which I had not seen for years, is

Demon Seed (at AmazonSmile*)

I remembered it.

Based on the

Dean Koontz novel (at AmazonSmile*)

it is about a scientist (Fritz Weaver) who creates an artificial intelligence system which takes over the smart home the scientist created…and, well, I don’t want to spoil what happens.

Julie Christie stars (arguably a more important role than Weaver’s), and Gerrit Graham has a nice small role as a computer tech (so different from the rocker Beef that Graham played in Phantom of the Paradise a few years earlier).

The smart home is very much like what we have with Alexa: a voice-interface turning the lights on and off, controlling the thermostat…oh, it’s probably a bit beyond what most of us have, but not ridiculously so. It’s called “Alfred”, presumably after Batman’s butler, but interesting that “Alexa” and “Alfred” are so similar…coincidentally, I’m sure. 😉

Robert (Napoleon Solo on The Man from U.N.C.L.E.) is great as the voice of “Proteus”! Interestingly, the actor is uncredited, presumably to make Proteus seem more real.

A few content warnings: there is some minor female nudity in the movie (another common thing in what I call Seventies Social Sci-Fi), violence, and sexual violence themes.

With that caution, I think you’d find it an interesting watch! It does intrigue me that Amazon chose to “go there”…I wonder how many people will watch this by asking Alexa to show it to them! You could do that with the

Fire TV Cube (at AmazonSmile*)

which is on a Black Friday sale starting today for half off ($59.99)…I listed it as one of

My favorite Amazon Black Friday sales this year

Gee, I wonder if someday Amazon will let us choose “Alfred” as the Alexa wake word…of if Proteus will allow it. 😉

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All aboard The Measured Circle’s Geek Time Trip at The History Project!

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

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5 Responses to “Amazon Prime members can now watch the ultimate cautionary tale against smart homes…like Amazon’s Alexa”

  1. Lady Galaxy Says:

    My favorite “smart home” was S.A.R.A.H. (Self Actuated Residential Automated Habitat), the bunker style home in the TV series “Eureka,” which is available through Amazon Prime.

  2. Karen Says:

    Thanks for all you do. How are your surviving with the smoke?

    • Bufo Calvin Says:

      Thanks for writing, Karen!

      While we feel most for the people directly affected by the fire, we have had some (relatively minor) impact. I have been wearing an N95 mask…it’s been very hazy here in the Bay Area, and our air quality has been officially unhealthy. There have been days where it looks like we are on Krypton (Superman’s home planet) with a red sun. It has looked like it is a foggy day, when it is really haze.

      We have stopped going to the dog park for now. That’s a big change: we usually go both weekend days for two to three hours. However, we also have to consider our dogs’ health: as small dogs, they must breath quickly compared to a big dog…I don’t know for sure, but I’m guessing they are more at risk. I have found a site that will be making masks for dogs (I was checking for someone else), but they aren’t in the market until probably mid-December. There may be others.

      It was actually worse today than yesterday, but I’m hoping it gets better soon. We are scheduled for some serious rain for Black Friday, and that may help our air quality here. If you are curious, here’s the map:

      http://www.baaqmd.gov/

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