According to a 2019 report from NPR and Edison Research, about 53 million Americans own a smart speaker assistant. The consulting firm Ovum predicts that by 2021, there will be more than 7.5 billion of these digital assistants used throughout the world, which is nearly the same number of people living today.
If you don’t own one of these AI empowered smart speakers, I bet that your neighbor or co-worker does. But some people are starting to question what these smart devices are doing to us.
Judith Shulevitz wrote in an article for The Atlantic in the fall of 2018 that she has started to develop an actual relationship with her smart speaker. She explains, “Gifted with the once uniquely human power of speech, Alexa, Google Assistant and Siri have already become greater than the sum of their parts. They’re software, but they’re more than that, just as human consciousness is an effect of neurons and synapses but is more than that. Their speech makes us treat them as if they had a mind.” And if they have minds, then we might be able to develop relationships with them even though we know they aren’t able to know us.