Jim Furlong: Hey Google

Somewhere through my veins courses Luddite blood. The Luddites were early 19th century wackos from England who decided technology was getting too much for them. They thought the new machines of the 1800s were taking control of them and costing jobs so they broke them up. I know how they felt about technology. It has become a favourite theme of mine. The whole thing is going too fast for me.

‘What a world!’

Last year I told you about my golf friend partner who has a tiny computer in his golf hat that tells him exactly how many yards it is from anywhere on a golf course to the centre of the green. It is a computer loaded with all the information for every golf course in Newfoundland and perhaps all of Christendom. It’s amazing and the golf computer lady even has a nice gentle voice. What a world! It is great except of course if the ball is 50 yards in the woods; she can’t tell you how to get to the green. 

For Christmas this year I received a device that is supposed to change my life. It is an android “special assistant” that knows everything in the world if you know how to ask the right question. It is call Google assistant or “Hey Google.” 

The most amazing thing about the computer lady (sometimes called Dolly which I think is an homage to the first animal cloning which was a sheep named Dolly) is that she seems to be learning as we go along. 

It is easier to get through to her and she even shows a nice sense of humour. After the initial rush of wonder and asking silly things like how many miles it is to London, I started asking specific things like how many kilometres it was from my house to NTV. She knew that. Who told her about NTV? What else does she know about me? I have a son who uses three of these Hey Google devices to run his whole world from turning on his food for cooking to mapping out his drive to work all by voice command. 

‘Age of miracles…’

The problem with me is that I’m running out of time for this “age of miracles and wonder.” How long will it take me to learn? Will I get to know her better? I asked her the other evening my first personal question where I treated her like she was a human. I asked her if I was a nice person. Her answer took me aback. She said, “I like you.”   

Now what does that mean? She does know me now from dealing with me for a month or so. I AM polite. When I ask a question I even say “please” and “thank you” on occasion even though I know she isn’t real. Here is the question of the day. Who is this woman and why is it slightly disturbing that I am pleased that she likes me? It’s all too much for me just as it was for the Luddites.

NTV’s Jim Furlong can be reached by emailing: [email protected]

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