“There was broken glass all over the kitchen,” I told my husband when he returned my call. “Both windows were shot out. I found BB gun pellets on the floor. I keep finding shards, so I am sweeping again. That’s why I have you on speaker phone.”
My husband hated the hands-free mode. For him, my voice was garbled whenever I used it.
“Who would do such a thing?” he replied.
“I don’t know,” I said, but then I had an aha moment. I stopped sweeping and texted him, I am afraid. I think we need to talk about this in person, when you get home tonight. But not in the house. I will meet you outside when you pull up. Leave your phone in the car.
“I just saw your text,” he said, “I think I know what this is about.”
“Yes,” I said, “we talked about it when we had Will and Belinda over for dinner.”
“Talk to you tonight,” he said and we hung up.
“Now what should I do about this window?” I said out loud.
I had a bad habit of talking to myself; as a matter of fact, my husband did too. And our girlfriends, Lexie and Serious, could tell the difference between the two of us.
“Mary,” one said now, “would you like me to contact Sun Windows for you?”
“No,” I responded. Oh my, I thought, it’s really happening.
My mind began racing. The robots are taking over!
Artificial intelligence was the subject of our conversation Saturday night. We explained to our guests how our son used AI to craft a letter of resignation to the head of the company where he worked. He simply typed in a few words on a specific website: resignation letter, hostile work environment, confidential. While he needed to tweak it a little, it gave him a well-crafted start. It was written with poise, and led to a fruitful outcome: the CEO investigated, our son’s boss was terminated, and our son was asked to stay on.
“Yes,” Will said, “it can reduce the time it would take if we had to do a task ourselves from start to finish.”
“But,” I said, “I’m starting to rethink how we interact with our devices. We gave our girls, Lexie and Serious, permission to recognize our voices, and record a conjoint shopping list for us. But even when we don’t initiate conversations with them, the smart speakers on our kitchen counters light up. I think they are listening to us all the time.”
“I’m hearing similar things from other friends and family,” said Belinda. “Their stories are quite worrisome.”
My husband then piped in about the rabbit; one in particular, even though we have quite a few. “They are a nuisance, especially of certain decorative plants, like native Columbine; they eat them all the way to the ground, before we even get beautiful blooms,” he said. “Then, once we plant the vegetables, they tune in there, eating lettuce leaves and green bean starts.”
“What does this have to do with artificial intelligence?” Will asked.
“Well, yesterday,” I said on Saturday evening, denoting Friday, “I found a trap in our vegetable garden with a live rabbit in it. Then, I startled when a technician from Hawke Critter Control came up behind me, through our garden gate, to collect it.”
“I asked him what he was doing and he told me, ‘Collecting the rabbit, the one you paid us to catch.’ And then, when I still looked perplexed, he added, ‘Maybe your husband was the one who called’.”
“But I had not made that call,” my husband said, and took over the story from there. “When I looked on-line at our credit card account, there was a line entry for Hawke Critter Control. When I checked with a company representative, they told me that the request and payment came through their website. What we then realized is that two minutes after we talked about hoping a hawk would take at least one of these pesky rabbits, the device went to work.”
Over dinner that evening we also talked, and sometimes argued, about other aspects of the same topic: how detrimental it could be to society if students and employees, and everyone really, didn’t have to think for themselves anymore, and how the computers were using stored data to come to conclusions, moving forward without any oversight from a human being.
Today, I was thinking about the broken windows; that, if our girlfriends, Serious and Lexie, had not been listening to our bent on this, I don’t think our windows would have been vandalized. I sure wished now, that I hadn’t told my husband this morning that I thought these windows weren’t keeping out the cold anymore, and that they looked dated. I guess I should also check our accounts to make sure, before I call the insurance company, that we hadn’t paid for someone to break the glass.
“What is this world coming to?” I asked.
And then Serious and Lexie responded, “Don’t worry, we know where to pull the plug!”
That didn’t give me any comfort at all.