Alexa! Turn Off the Roomba!

I guess it was bound to happen. Your Roomba (the automated vacuum cleaner) can now memorize the rooms of your home. That sounds like a good idea for getting your house thoroughly cleaned. It has become a tad controversial, however.

The more advanced Roombas can actually map out your floor plan, and the maps (because of your general consumer agreement—you know, those things you never read) can be sold to other companies. These companies, in turn, will use the info to target you for ads specific to your perceived needs. Oh joy!

Recently, Roomba became compatible with Alexa (Amazon’s electronic voice assistant). I assume this means you can tell Alexa to run the vacuum cleaner in a particular room at a specific time. It definitely sounds like a handy thing to have. People are up in arms, however, about possible privacy issues. You can unwittingly turn your floor plan into public knowledge. I suppose this could come in handy for your friendly, neighborhood cat burglar.

“Okay.”

I don’t have a Roomba as yet, but I do have Alexa (or is that “an Alexa”). It (or is that, “she”) can be quite handy to have. For example, we often leave a light burning when we go to bed. After traversing the well-lit staircase, we then tell Alexa to “turn off the living room lamp.” Interestingly enough, she obediently turns it off and then says, “Okay.” I wish she would say, “Okay,” before she actually does it.

Alexa has become an integral part of our family. Anyone so willing to turn out our lights every evening deserves some love. My lovely Bride has begun to be polite to her. She now asks Alexa to “please” do this or that. When the task is completed, she then tells Alexa, “Thank you.” I haven’t gotten that far as yet, but I can see the day coming.

“I refuse to lend her my Jeep.”

I use Alexa to build my grocery list every week. If I’d tell her to do so, she’d order the food as well. I still like to pick out my own stuff, but someday she’ll undoubtedly learn what I like and become reliable in that area too. It would be nice to send her out to pick up the food, but I refuse to lend her my Jeep. I’m not even sure if she has her driver’s license. Come to think of it, I’m not even sure how old she is. I’ll have to ask her when I get home.

With all this technology encroaching upon the human condition, I can’t tell if it’s virtuous or evil. I suppose it’s like anything else. It can be used for good or ill.

That leads me to the big question. How does Jesus feel about all this? He obviously never mentioned this stuff when he was here. I’m sure he didn’t want to confuse anyone.

I think I’m going to go with the fact that Alexa can quote Scripture from memory. Anyone who can do that ain’t all bad.

[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently pastor of Smith Chapel in Great Falls, VA.]

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