What do you think of Amazon's Alexa and others similar?



I hear @benrules2 about Alexa enabling us to not be tied to a screen. In fact, these devices do help kids get off the couch and encourage fun family interaction. Yet, parents should be aware of the devices’ recording and storage capabilities, which I detail in this post: durablehuman.com/dont-be-dumb-about-smart-toys-and-home-devices-by-google-home-and-amazon-alexa/


Hi @Free, thanks for the comment and suggestions here. Because I am participating in a personal capacity here though, I’m afraid I can’t relay any feature suggestions or comment on them.


Hi @benrules2! Very nice to have you participate in our community.

It is indeed true that privacy is increasingly concerning for more and more people, as they become aware of the data collection practices at play, how that data is used, aggregated and traded, and the implications that can have for them personally (implications that will only increase).

There is a continuous debate about what data devices like the Echo, and similar ones from other vendors, are collecting, or could be collecting in the future, without their users being aware of that. Only yesterday there was such a discussion on Hacker News (in NH judge orders Amazon to give Echo recordings in murder case). I guess in future the speech-to-text transformation could be performed on the device, and in theory that allows continuous data collection.

Not saying Amazon is in that business, of course. And it would not be smart, given the blowback, if that would ever come out.

I am privacy-aware myself, and dread the time where I’d have to ask friends and family to please switch off their listening devices, when I am visiting them (“There you have that tinfoil hat guy again.”). And I’m living in a democracy, not an authoritarian state.

Regarding Amazon business plan being not all that hard to understand - being in Shopping - I don’t agree, and I am surprised you did describe it as such…

Amazon is in numerous markets already. Its business model is about entering about every branch you can imagine and Amazon is also not shy to proclaim that.

They are going from business branch to business branch with the intent to conquer and rule supreme. With great success so far. And they use dominant positions in one branch to reinforce others - no firewalls, lik in Banking, and can afford to enter new markets at very low price points (and initially great loss) to undercut the competition.

Also I don’t think they are outside the “attention economy”. If only for shopping, you need the eyeballs on the products in your shop for the longest time possible. But Amazon is also very ambitious to enter the Online Advertising market and want to become a dominant player in 2019 (see e.g. How Amazon Is Priming Its Advertising Business for 2019).

With all of this Amazon is fully partaking in the ‘Data is the new Gold’ era, just like any other Big Tech giant, and plays a big role in the same moral and ethical issues that surround their business practices towards users, customers and employees.


An article by Darren Austin published on Nir Eyal’s (writer of “Hooked”) website about how Alexa hooks us:

How Alexa Hooks You

The Hook Model, which cycles through the Trigger, Action, Reward, and Investment phases explains how Alexa changed our habits and keeps us hooked.

PS, A different write-up of this article can be found on LinkedIn here