“Alexa, feed my cat. Alexa, write my term paper and then scrub the kitchen floor.” According to a recent New York Times article, people are falling in love with digital assistant Alexa, Amazon’s voice service found in several of its products. Alexa can’t do these chores yet, but with your help “she” can now create your shopping list, and make dinner reservations, and probably a bunch of other things. I expect she will do much more in the future.
The same article says, “This year, more than 25 million Americans will use an Alexa device at least once a month. Ovum, a market research company, has predicted that by the year 2021, there will be more Alexa-like digital assistants on the planet than humans.” Right off hand that sounds like too many.
Although few owners would put “her” in the same class as a remote control and other labor-saving devices — in the same piece above, one woman said her husband views Alexa as a hybrid mistress-nurse — Alexa and other “home bot” helpers — current and future — pose one big problem. They will make us fat(ter).
Many years ago I worked as an employee wellness program coordinator and studied to become a fitness trainer to help me in my job. I still remember my instructor saying, “Put the remote control away. Get up and walk to the television to change the channel. All our labor-saving devices are making us fatter.” (Imagine how many calories channel surfers could burn if they got up off the couch to change the channel every ten seconds.) Okay, I tried but couldn’t figure out how to change my television’s channels without the remote, but her point is well taken. Every new gizmo pushes us into a more sedentary lifestyle.
Our grandparents packed away the carbs and fats. They could get away with eating heavy meals, because they did physically demanding work. The women washed the family’s clothes in ringer washers (or in earlier times in a wash tub) and hung them up to dry. My grandma was born in 1885, which means the following describes her mother’s experience. “According to an 1886 calculation, women fetched water eight to ten times every day from a pump, well, or spring.” Now all we have to do for the same results is turn on the tap for drinking water or push a few buttons to fill the washing machine.
It’s ironic that the devices that save us time and energy also require us to compensate for that savings by spending more time and sometimes money to get exercise. With every new car and its digital parking assistant, kitchen appliance and Alexa device, we need to consider taking the stairs and not the elevator, parking farther away from stores’ entrances, working in the garden, stepping up our pace in the malls and doing physical activities we enjoy.
This is where the digital assistant is most useful. “Alexa, find me a gym near my home. Alexa, remind me to get up from the computer every half hour. Alexa,”say something every time you hear the refrigerator door opening.”