I was against the intrusion, but I came home one day and they were sitting in my house: A Google Home. Google Dots.
People are shocked by Google Duplex, but I saw it coming with these smart devices of the Apocalypse. You think Facebook is bad? Gmail has every e-mail I’ve sent for the past 12 years. I’m typing this in Google Keep. They have been watching us. And now, they are listening to our voices.
A Google Dot looks unassuming. A friend thought it was a sponge — that is, until it spoke back. You activate one by saying, “Hey Google,” and it “wakes” and responds.
Things it can do: turn lights on and off; give me the weather forecast; misunderstand me; copy my ums and ahs and add it to a machine learning process that imitates humans. Makes a great gift!
It seemed like something out of a sci-fi horror movie. As if someday the Dot would say, “I’m sorry, El, I’m afraid I can’t do that,” and lock me out of my house.
Despite my reservations (not the restaurant reservations Duplex can make; strong feelings of suspicion), my husband wanted to keep them. The Google Home/Dots, like a baby sibling, were here to stay.
A Google Dot looks unassuming. A friend thought it was a sponge—that is, until it spoke back.
I warmed to them after awhile. It was like playing with a dog you don’t yet realize has rabies. The little Cujos won me over because they could play the radio.
List of things Google knows about me, #5,372: likes Cold War Kids.
But as of today, in my Google history, there is a sequence of me pleading like a dying woman for it to turn off. My husband was called in to work earlier than usual, and one of the devices woke me up from a nap, playing a loud tune.
DOO doo do duh duh DOO. DOO doo do duh duh DOO...
My attempts to shut it off were at first sleepy and a little slurred: “Hey Google? Turn off the alarm?”
“Maybe I misheard you,” the Dot on my nightstand replied, “but if you asked to turn off an alarm, that’s not an alarm.”
I was dizzy from a migraine, but I pulled myself out of bed. The sound was coming from a Google Home in my husband’s office, so I opened the door and addressed it.
Its light turned on, illuminating the dark room, but it refused to budge from its impromptu concert.
Finally, I was yelling like the wolf from the Three Little Pigs: “Come out, come out, or I’ll blow your house in!!” AKA, “Hey Google, TURN OFF THE ALARM!”
“Maybe I misheard you, but — ”
I grabbed that Chucky doll of noise, intending to pull the cord out of the wall, but touching it activated its off button. It silenced, like a cat laying down for a nap.
I sat down. With what was left of my sanity, I tried to figure out what had happened.
I had been speaking to the correct device. It was, after all, making an alarm-like sound. Maybe my husband had set a timer? But how was I, half-asleep, supposed to know which one it was? Maybe it should say, “That’s a timer, but I’ll turn it off for you”? Then it can still be smug, but I can still take a nap.
Overall, I feel like we paid to be a beta tester of a powerful technology. When my grandkids are my age, they will have the smart devices of sci-fi movies. I have something I can use to add potatoes to my grocery list. Maybe I should find a new note app.
Hey Google, can you call a therapist?