Domestic Robots? Technology and the Family

| January 30, 2018

An article on Slate detailed the increasing popularity of in-home smart speaker assistants, and how families have been using them.

The article describes how some families barely use the technology, and in some cases even leave it in the box for weeks and months. But in other cases, the smart speaker has become so inherent to the lifestyles of these families that they forget their concerns about a device listening to them constantly because of the ease and convenience the device provides.

Endearingly called “Alexa,” the assistant has become like a new family member, but not without causing some stress or annoyance. Some families experienced aggravation either from only some family members being able to communicate with Alexa, or some family members being “Alexa-incompetent.”

But as this technology-assistant world that we live in becoming increasingly common, do we consider enough the effects of this technology on our families? Do they create ease or only cause isolation and strife?

While the Slate article does not delve into this consideration, the effect is nevertheless an important one to consider. What do we lose when we come to depend on technology instead of our family members, even in small tasks? We lose the trust that we have for our family when we ask them to complete these tasks—even something as simple as turning off the lights before leaving the house—and instead invest this trust in a robot.

Instead of a relationship of dependency created between family members, this dependency relies on Alexa, or Echo or Google Assistant, whatever speaker you fancy. These technological items may achieve perfection every time a task is demanded (or not, depending on the user) but without the opportunity to let a family member mess-up or make a mistake, we have a lack of learning, a lack of humor in our families, and a lack of relationship created in the smallest of tasks that require a whole family to come together and complete in each of their own contributions.

So, as you’re perusing which speaker-assistant you want to buy this season, consider instead what this technology really provides you, and even what it takes away, especially in light of your family.