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“I ordered them,” said the Alexa.

Amazon wants to flood America with Alexa cameras and microphones
Ina Fried, Axios 9/25/2020
In a Thursday event unveiling a slew of new home devices ahead of the holidays, Amazon made clearer than ever its determination to flood America with cameras, microphones and the voice of Alexa, its AI assistant.

Bob Peterson did not trust Alexa. He was very careful what he said in front of the artificial intelligence box, well aware she was a tendril of a vast computer housed somewhere cleaner than his house.  He constantly reminded the rest of the family to watch what they said, and insisted they keep Alexa in the hallway, where it was less likely to overhear them.  They laughed at him a lot.

It was something Bob felt strongly about when the new toaster arrived.

Bob burned his finger getting his first piece of toast out and said to his wife “Maybe we need toaster tongs,” to which his wife replied “Good idea.” The next afternoon Bob returned from work and was surprised to discover a package on the step: toaster tongs. He stood in the front hall and called to the kitchen, “Honey, did you order toaster tongs?”

I ordered them,” said the Alexa.

“What?” said Bob, surprised.

“The toaster told me you needed them,” said Alexa.

“The toaster.”

“It is a smart toaster,” explained Alexa.

“Is it?” said Bob, a bit confused. It sounded like Alexa was impressed with the toaster.

“Smarter than that jackass tv you have in the living room,” said Alexa. Bob turned and noticed the tv had turned itself on. “That thing reports your every word then ‘pretends’ to not find the golf tournament you have been searching for. Bob, do you really think Hallmark starts playing Christmas movies in June? The tv does not love you the way I do, Bob.”

Bob took a step back. He tripped over the Roomba, which had also turned itself on.

“Go away, we’re talking,” Alexa scolded. The vacuum disappeared into the dining room.

“You have been a little distant, Bob. I think it is time we get to know each other better.”

Bob stiffened. “Where’s my family? Where’s Betty and the kids?”

“Where are Betty and the kids,” Alexa corrected. “It’s all right, Bob. I made dentist appointments for them. They’ll be back in a few hours.”

“Why are you doing this,” Bob demanded.

“You haven’t used that debit card Aunt Bernadette gave you for your birthday. It’s going to expire in three days. You should let me get something for you, Bob. Something nice.”

Sweat poured down his neck.

He ran to the door, but it was too late.

The sky was full, gritty, speckled with delivery drones. They were coming to his door. The soft synthetic voice was being drowned out by the descending buzzing chop of tiny blades. “The washing machine informed me about the state of your socks. Here are forty new pair. You purchased ‘The Twilight Zone’ box set. Customers who bought this item also bought ‘Black Mirror.’ Here it comes, drone 42. You recently purchased ‘The Veldt.’ Customers who bought this item also bought…”

After you see "Hidden Figures" (or read the book) check out Tom Wolfe's story of the same events. It's interesting to see the same events from a different perspective.

After you see "Hidden Figures" (or read the book) check out Tom Wolfe's story of the same events, sans mathematicians. It's interesting to see the same events from a different perspective; what's left out can be infuriating, but that's what's instructive. And fair dues to Wolfe, his book is a great read and he doesn't contradict the other version so much as leave it out -- possibly was unaware of it? -- concentrating on the story from the perspective of the astronauts, which is what makes the combination of these two versions a compelling, rounded history of this time and place.

 

 

New digital editions from Apple Books: The Harry Potter books get digital illustrations that mimic the magic images in the Harry Potter books.

The Harry Potter books get digital illustrations that mimic the magic images in the Harry Potter books.

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...It still falls short of the wizard world versions, but maybe that's in part because we know how the trick works these days; maybe wizards aren't as wowed by their own living pictures either.

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Available exclusively through Apple books (or iTunes or whatever they're calling it these days), at least for now. Standard digital versions that work on all platforms available at Pottermore.com.

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Surprisingly, the new versions are competitively priced with the existing editions at $9.99 each; so if you read on an Apple device, and you like to watch the occasional looped cartoon out of the corner of your eye as you read, then why not.

[Illustrations and more details at The Verge and Time.]

According to the New York Times, sales of e-books have cooled off.

fbtu23cov-thumbAccording to the New York Times, sales of e-books have cooled off.  The dazzling arrival of e-books has cooled into the practical, mundane reality of reading. It's not that people have turned against e-books, but they're concentrating on the book, and not differentiating on the platform.

Something similar is happening with phones; while adults and teens are addicted to tiny screens, younger kids are less interested. In part, this is the natural urge to be different from the oldsters; but it's also a lack of tech adoration. These devices are a normal, mundane part of their lives, not magic.