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Amazon wants Alexa, its smart personal assistant, to become an integral part of your day-to-day living.

She can play music, set alarms, search Google, update you on the latest news, give you a weather forecast, control your smart home, and even order things from Amazon using nothing more than voice commands.

Sounds great. But is she really that “smart” 20 Echo Skills That Show Alexa's Not Always So Smart 20 Echo Skills That Show Alexa's Not Always So Smart Despite all the things that you can do with Alexa out of the box, its extensibility via Skills is far more intriguing. Here are 20 Echo Skills that may surprise you! Read More ? There’s no doubt voice-controlled assistants are the future, but is Alexa the solution?

Perhaps not. In this article, I’m going to argue Alexa is actually rather stupid.

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You’re Talking to a Speaker

If you think talking to plants is daft, you’re in for a shock. There’s no getting around this, you’re having a conversation with an inanimate object. At least plants are alive.


Alexa is hardly the only culprit Amazon Echo vs. Google Home vs. Apple's Competitor Amazon Echo vs. Google Home vs. Apple's Competitor In this article, you'll learn the differences between the Amazon Echo and Google Home. We'll also take a look at what features an Apple speaker may include. Read More . Siri and Google Now use a similar approach and an increasing number of smart home gadgets rely on voice control.

Children being born into today’s hi-tech world might be more comfortable with the notion of talking to tech by the time they reach adulthood. However, for adults who’ve grown up in the pre-internet era, it feels ridiculous.

Yelling at your coffee table to find out information is both disconcerting and entirely unnatural. Want to know what the weather is like? Look out the window. Want to listen to music? Turn on the radio.

Yes, technology moves on. But until Amazon finds a way to make Alexa a lot more personal, it’s unlikely to catch on with the public at large.

Sell, Sell, Sell

Amazon tells us Alexa is all about making our lives easier. The information on Amazon’s website makes lots of reference to speed, ease-of-use, and integration.

It feels like Amazon is hiding something from us. Amazon doesn’t produce weather reports, own a search engine, or develop productivity apps. Amazon is a shop, it wants to sell us things.

It might be cynical, but it’s hard to escape the nagging feeling that Alexa is an elaborate way to make us buy more stuff. After all, the company is already inventive in this area. Drone deliveries Will Amazon Drones Really Be Arriving at a Backyard Near You? Will Amazon Drones Really Be Arriving at a Backyard Near You? Amazon thinks they've cracked the delivery code. By using unmanned, automated drones, they'll be able to get packages into the hands of buyers in 30 minutes or less. Read More , Prime subscriptions, groceries-on-demand Is Amazon Prime Pantry Worth Your Money? 5 Things You Need to Know Is Amazon Prime Pantry Worth Your Money? 5 Things You Need to Know Prime Pantry lets you shop for groceries right from the Amazon homepage—but is it a good deal? Will it save you money? We look at all the facts. Read More , and even RFID-based supermarkets are all now a “thing”. All are meant to increase the volume of things you consume, by making it more convenient for you to consume.

Currently, Alexa’s shopping functionality is limited to Prime members 6 Amazon Prime Benefits You Might Be Ignoring Right Now 6 Amazon Prime Benefits You Might Be Ignoring Right Now Scratch the surface. Amazon Prime has so many more benefits that people have forgotten about or simply don't realize exist. Read More who want to reorder products they’ve bought before. But if Alexa proves to be a hit, you can bet she’ll quickly become the front end for the Amazon store, ready to debit your credit card every time you open your mouth.

Don’t Call Your Daughter Alexa

Seriously, don’t. There’s nothing wrong with the name “Alexa” — it’s very pretty — but the way the technology’s voice recognition works Alexa, How Does Siri Work? Voice Control Explained Alexa, How Does Siri Work? Voice Control Explained The world is moving towards voice commands for everything, but how exactly does voice control work? Why is it so glitchy and restricted? Here's what you need to know as a layman user. Read More will make your life a nightmare.

The Amazon Echo speaker, home of Alexa, is “always listening”. As soon as it hears the word “Alexa” it springs to life, ready to help. It needs to work in this way, a smart assistant wouldn’t be very useful if you had to turn it on every time you needed help. At that point, it’d just be a watered-down version of a smartphone.

But it could create problems.

You can see it now: “Alexa, darling, would you mind picking up some washing detergent from the store later?” Amazon will have it on your doorstep before your daughter has even left the house.

BBC journalist Dave Lee recently wrote a piece in which he criticized Google Now for being too impersonal. “When I use Google Home, I’m forced to address a corporation”, he argued. It’s a fair point, but unless you’ve got sadistic naming tendencies it’s not going to wreak the same amount of havoc.

Get Her a Hearing Aid

Alexa needs her ears cleaned. If you’ve spent any time interacting with her, you’ll be all too aware of this mind-numbing phrase: “Sorry, I didn’t understand the question I heard.” There are only so many times you can hear the same sorry-not-sorry riposte before you give up and sling Alexa through the nearest window.

If you want quick information, it’s frustrating and time-consuming. It’s faster to check your phone instead. Even if she thinks she understood the question, she often didn’t.

“Alexa, what’s the right way to Walmart?”

“The right way to spell Walmart is W-A-L-M-A-R-T.”

Sound familiar? Stick with Google Maps.

Errors Have Consequences

Her shoddy hearing might give you a laugh, but it if starts to have serious consequences on your personal or professional life, it won’t be so funny.

For example, Amazon heavily promotes Alexa’s integration with apps 7 Creative Uses for Amazon Echo and Alexa 7 Creative Uses for Amazon Echo and Alexa You’ve seen the ads starring Alec Baldwin, but you're still not sure what Amazon Echo does or whether you need one in your home. We’re about to find out. Read More like Uber and Just Eat. But what happens when the delivery driver brings “Chicken and Cashew Nuts” to your door instead of “Chicken Chow Mein”? Who’s out of pocket? You can be sure the restaurant won’t care, and good luck with trying to get a refund from Amazon directly.

And what about adding events to your calendar? It’s hard to know how sympathetic your boss will be if you’re 12 hours late for a meeting because Alexa logged it at 8 PM rather than 8 AM.

They might be isolated incidents, but they do happen. And until Alexa improves significantly, they will continue to happen.

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Give Alexa a Pink Slip

Take responsibility for your own life. Are you really that lazy that you’re prepared to let an all-seeing, all-knowing corporation into your front room just to save you a few seconds?

It would be different if Alexa could reliably do all your tax returns or mow the lawn. They’re jobs that take considerable time and effort. But asking her to check the sports scores for me? No thanks.

Give Alexa a pink slip, she won’t hold it against you, I promise.

Do you use Alexa? Do you find her useful or useless? You can leave your experiences and opinions in the comments below.

Image Credit: Yeexin Richelle via

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