Love, Hate & Matrimony Short Story Collection Volume 1

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In the near future, everything from your lighting to your air-conditioning to your refrigerator, your coffee maker, and even your toilet could be wired to a system controlled by voice. The company that succeeds in cornering the smart-speaker market will lock appliance manufacturers, app designers, and consumers into its ecosystem of devices and services, just as Microsoft tethered the personal-computer industry to its operating system in the s.

Alexa alone already works with more than 20, smart-home devices representing more than 3, brands. Her voice emanates from more than third-party gadgets, including headphones, security systems, and automobiles. Yet there is an inherent appeal to the devices, too—one beyond mere consumerism. Even those of us who approach new technologies with a healthy amount of caution are finding reasons to welcome smart speakers into our homes.

The ramifications of this shift are likely to be wide and profound. Human history is a by-product of human inventions.

A New Watchlist

New tools—wheels, plows, PCs—usher in new economic and social orders. They create and destroy civilizations. Voice technologies such as telephones, recording devices, and the radio have had a particularly momentous impact on the course of political history—speech and rhetoric being, of course, the classical means of persuasion. Perhaps you think that talking to Alexa is just a new way to do the things you already do on a screen: shopping, catching up on the news, trying to figure out whether your dog is sick or just depressed.

When we converse with our personal assistants, we bring them closer to our own level. Gifted with the once uniquely human power of speech, Alexa, Google Assistant, and Siri have already become greater than the sum of their parts. Their speech makes us treat them as if they had a mind. These secretarial companions may be faux-conscious nonpersons, but their words give them personality and social presence. And indeed, these devices no longer serve solely as intermediaries, portals to e-commerce or nytimes. We communicate with them, not through them. The Assistant pulls out of his memory bank one of the many responses to this statement that have been programmed into him.

For the moment, these machines remain at the dawn of their potential, as likely to botch your request as they are to fulfill it. But as smart-speaker sales soar, computing power is also expanding exponentially. Within our lifetimes, these devices will likely become much more adroit conversationalists. By the time they do, they will have fully insinuated themselves into our lives.

And with their eerie ability to elicit confessions, they could acquire a remarkable power over our emotional lives. What will that be like? The point of the Dash Wand was obvious: It made buying products from Amazon easier. The point of the Echo was less obvious. Why would consumers buy a device that gave them the weather and traffic conditions, functioned as an egg timer, and performed other tasks that any garden-variety smartphone could manage?

But once Reid had set up an Echo in her kitchen, she got it. Her daughters, 10 and 7 at the time, instantly started chattering away at Alexa, as if conversing with a plastic cylinder was the most natural thing in the world. You may be skeptical of a conversion narrative offered up by a top Amazon executive.

Miraculous short story I hate you part 2/5

Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. The basic appeal of the Echo, she said, is that it frees your hands. Echo owners can wander around living rooms, kitchens, and offices doing this or that while requesting random bits of information or ordering toilet paper or an Instant Pot, no clicks required.

No need to walk over to the desktop and type a search term into a browser; no need to track down your iPhone and punch in your passcode. Frictionlessness is the goal, anyway. For the moment, considerable friction remains. It really is remarkable how often smart speakers—even Google Home, which often outperforms the Echo in tests conducted by tech websites—flub their lines.

My sister-in-law got her Echo early, in Catrin Morris, a mother of two who lives in Washington, D. She had to fight the urge to whip out her smartphone to answer some tantalizing question, such as: Which came first, the fork, the spoon, or the knife? At least with Alexa, she and her daughters can keep their hands on their silverware while they question its origins. As Alexa grows in sophistication, it will be that much harder to throw the Echo on the heap of old gadgets to be hauled off on electronics-recycling day.

He sums up the biggest obstacle to Alexa achieving that sophistication in a single word: context. Alexa needs to get better at grasping context before she can truly inspire trust. And trust matters. Not just because consumers will give up on her if she bungles one too many requests, but because she is more than a search engine. She chooses one answer from many. She tells you what she thinks you want to know. T o understand the forces being marshaled to pull us away from screens and push us toward voices, you have to know something about the psychology of the voice.

For one thing, voices create intimacy. Many articles have been written about the expressions of depression and suicide threats that manufacturers have been picking up on. I asked tech executives about this, and they said they try to deal with such statements responsibly. There are people who can help you. You could try talking with a friend, or your doctor. You can also reach out to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance at for more resources. Why would we turn to computers for solace?


  • Between?
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  • Feast or Famine: A Shortish Story (The Ozymandias Saga Short Book 1).
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  • The Joy of Inner Respect.
  • Emma, by Jane Austen.

Machines give us a way to reveal shameful feelings without feeling shame. I turned to Diana Van Lancker Sidtis, a speech-and-language scholar at NYU, to get a better appreciation for the deep connection between voice and emotion.

In it, she explains that their croaks, unique to each frog, communicated to fellow frogs who and where they were. Fast-forward a few hundred million years, and the human vocal apparatus, with its more complex musculature, produces language, not croaks. But voices convey more than language. Like the frogs, they convey the identifying markers of an individual: gender, size, stress level, and so on.

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Why I Hate My Best Short Story

Our vocal signatures consist of not only our style of stringing words together but also the sonic marinade in which those words steep, a rich medley of tone, rhythm, pitch, resonance, pronunciation, and many other features. The technical term for this collection of traits is prosody. When someone talks to us, we hear the words, the syntax, and the prosody all at once.

The prosody usually passes beneath notice, like a mighty current directing us toward a particular emotional response. Evolution has not prepared me to know. In fact, it may be a boon. Voices can express certain emotional truths better than faces can.

The Complete Short Stories by W. Somerset Maugham | LibraryThing

Even if we try to suppress our real feelings, anger, boredom, or anxiety will often reveal themselves when we speak. In the beginning was the Word, not the Scroll. Disembodied voices accrue yet more influence from the primal yearning they awaken. Freud understood this long before empirical research demonstrated it. He could listen all the harder for the nuggets of truth in their ramblings, while they, undistracted by scowls or smiles, slipped into that twilight state in which they could unburden themselves of stifled feelings. T he manufacturers of smart speakers would like to capitalize on these psychosocial effects.

In part, this is textbook brand management: These devices must be ambassadors for their makers. But having a personality also helps make a voice relatable. Tone is tricky. Twenty-first-century Americans no longer feel entirely comfortable with feminine obsequiousness , however. We like our servility to come in less servile flavors. The voice should be friendly but not too friendly. It should possess just the right dose of sass. She beamed in on Google Hangouts and offered what struck me as the No. If you propose marriage to Alexa—and Amazon says 1 million people did so in —she gently declines for similar reasons.

Giangola is a garrulous man with wavy hair and more than a touch of mad scientist about him.