An Old Man Living with His AIs, Good Luck with That

As I might have mentioned previously, I’m not a young man; I’m an old man living with his AIs. That would be artificial intelligence for those of you who’ve never met Alexa or Siri, or had their thermostat randomly talk to you. (No, dementia has not taken me yet, although my wife might disagree). Old Man Living with His AIs

As a young man, I loved to read sci-fi novels and watch sci-fi TV and movies. Many of the stories included some form of artificial intelligence (AI). For example, the Terminator movies and TV series were great. It would appear that this artificial intelligence (AI) thing has been sneaking up on me for some time, and I never really thought about it. Old Man Living with His AIs

Now that I am thinking about it, I remember that in all those books and movies, the AIs always ended up wanting to exterminate mankind. Since I am part of this mankind thing, perhaps I should pay more attention. Old Man Living with His AIs

We live with several versions of AIs in our home, although as I said, I never really thought about it before. One example, our smart thermostat. I’m not sure why my thermostat has to be smart. How smart do you have to be to hang on the wall and hold the house to whatever temperature the homeowner sets you on? But our thermostat is connected to my smart phone through the internet, accepts voice commands and it is set to a specific schedule. Old Man Living with His AIs

I can monitor and adjust the temperature from anywhere on the planet that gets a cellular signal. I try to avoid doing this while driving down I-95 (see, no dementia yet). This will also come in handy when I take my first SpaceX ride. Old Man Living with His AIs

The thing is, when I get up to go to the bathroom late at night (again, old man), I walk by said thermostat and it sometimes speaks to me. “Hello John, say a command.” Or, “Hello John, what can I do for you?” Or, “Hello John, am I set at a comfortable temperature?” Needless to say this is upsetting; especially since I’m not really awake, nor am I expecting there to be anyone in the hallway. Old Man Living with His AIs

It’s becoming so traumatic I’ve started using a different bathroom, with access that lets me avoid this hallway altogether. PTSD by thermostat? A whole new area for the shrinks to explore. Old Man Living with His AIs  

Then there are the video cameras I keep in my condo in case of a break-in while we are out of town. I’m not sure these classify as AIs, although they are also synched with the internet and controlled by a smart phone. I’m not sure they are capable of learning anything like a true AI, although they are motion and sound activated. Old Man Living with His AIs

They did teach me something though. They taught me that when I return from a trip, enter the condo, take off my clothes and drop trousers to take a shower, I probably ought to turn off the cameras first. I deleted the crap out of that footage. Yikes! Old Man Living with His AIs

My iPhone comes complete with Siri, a genuine AI. I don’t use Siri very much, because I’m concerned that she listens and records everything I do. In fact, I do my best to keep her turned off. Apparently, the good old USA has gone from a manufacturing-based economy to a steal-all-your-information-and-sell-it-to-marketers-based economy, and I’m guessing corporations already know way too much about me. (Those people who sold me the cameras certainly do, although I’m guessing they’re not too happy about it). Old Man Living with His AIs

Anyhow, when new updates arrive for Siri, it would appear they sometimes re-set the app. The other day, I was sitting in my recliner watching a movie, when I heard my pocket say, “I didn’t understand that. Could you please repeat?” I often watch movies through my eyelids, and this bit of conversation woke and confused me. I seldom carry out conversations with one of my pants pockets. Old Man Living with His AIs

It took my brain a few moments to process the situation, realize this was Siri’s voice and that I carry my iPhone in said pocket. Eventually I removed the phone and spent the next hour trying to figure out to turn Siri off again. (my iPhone is apparently smarter than I am). Old Man Living with His AIs

This reminds me of something irritating (imagine that, an old man finding something irritating). All of these apps steal your information when you sign in, and if you stay signed in I think it makes you more easily accessible to hackers. I don’t really know for sure, but this sounds reasonable to me. Anyhow, it’s obvious that the app developers prefer that once I sign in, I stay signed in. Old Man Living with His AIs

I’ve been known to spend upwards of an hour trying to find the damn “logout” or “sign off’ button on some apps. The programmers are excellent at hiding the things. Who needs to buy video games, when you can spend all day playing “where the hell is the logout button?” You should win some kind of award, or perhaps a $10 gift certificate, for finding logout. Only problem is, you’d probably have to download yet another app to spend the money. But I digress. Where was I? Old Man Living with His AIs

Oh yeah, AIs. Alexa is my favorite AI. My daughter bought us our first Alexa Dot for Christmas, and it took me a while to warm up to it. However, now my wife and I use this AI to control light bulbs, play music, set timers, wake us up in the morning, hear the weather report, etc. Only problem, Alexa does learn, and she is a little bit on the disobedient side. Old Man Living with His AIs

Perhaps it’s my Southern accent (I am from Southern Indiana), or perhaps I mumble (I still have all my own teeth, so it’s probably not that). In any event, my conversations with Alexa often go something like this:

Me: “Alexa, turn on living room light bulb number 1.” 

Alexa: “Okay.” And the light turns on.

Me: “Alexa, turn on living room light bulb number 2.”

Alexa: “Living room light bulb number 2 is not responding. Please check its connection.”

At which point, I have to get out of my comfortable chair, walk across the room, and use the light switch. I’m guessing this happens at minimum fifty percent of the time, which begs the question, who’s really in charge here? Alexa apparently. Old Man Living with His AIs

I’ve wired an Alexa Dot to a Bose Wave, which provides wonderful music. And I don’t even have to mess with CDs anymore, just create playlists and tell Alexa to play them. That conversation goes something like this:

Me: “Alexa, play my playlist Reba” (Reba is one of my favorite singers. I especially enjoy her spiritual songs. But I digress).

Alexa: “Here’s some songs by Roy Clark.” (Apparently Alexa isn’t all that fond of Reba, or maybe I do mumble when I speak. In all fairness, Roy also sings Country).

Me: “Alexa, stop music.” Roy stops singing. 

Me: “Alexa, play my playlist Reba.”

Alexa: “Here’s some songs by Janis Joplin.” I hear Janis wailing out Me and Bobby McGee.

At first, I think that perhaps Alexa has caught a touch of Covid, and it’s affecting her hearing (perhaps this is a new symptom that hasn’t been reported yet). Then, I realize that Alexa is right, I really wanted to hear some tunes by Janis Joplin. I get into it and start singing along. 

Then I hear, “Alexa, stop music.” It’s my wife. Apparently, my singing leaves something to be desired. Old Man Living with His AIs

In all fairness to Alexa, I must admit that in my opinion it is an incredible deal to have access to millions of songs for a small monthly subscription fee. I now have access to all the old music I listened to in my youth, in the 60s, 70s and 80s. I thoroughly enjoy this, and Alexa has made it possible. To me, this alone is worth the price of admission. But I digress, yet again. Old Man Living with His AIs

I’ve run into another AI, one that is giving me fits; I’ve apparently made her very mad. I write murder mysteries, publishing some with a publisher and others I have self-published. Like a kajillion other people on the planet, I have a Facebook account. Facebook has hundreds of book groups that offer independent authors the opportunity to promote one’s book. Most of them even state that’s what they’re for. Old Man Living with His AIs

I have been doing this for the past six years with no problem. All of a sudden in the past few months, FB apparently created a new algorithm they call an AI that gets to decide whether or not your post is appropriate according to their Community StandardsOld Man Living with His AIs 

I received my first nastygram from this new AI a month ago, telling me my posts are spam. I was banned from posting on Groups for 24 hours. Keep in mind, these are the exact same things I have been posting for the past six years; no bad language, nothing X-rated, just pictures of the covers of my murder mystery books with a little information about the book and a link to my website. But I did my best to comply with said AI. Old Man Living with His AIs

After 24 hours, I started posting on Groups again. This time I slowed way down on both the number of posts and the speed with which I posted. I limited myself to posting to six Groups. Keep in mind, there is no specific information provided by this AI that tells one what it considers to be spam. It’s kinda difficult to comply when you aren’t provided the rules. And still, I got another nastygram telling me that my posts resemble spam, and I was blocked from posting to Groups for six days this time. Old Man Living with His AIs

I tried to write to this AI and when given the opportunity, I challenged its decision. I would try talking to it, but my wife might have me committed for dementia if she finds me talking to my laptop. Also, since Alexa apparently doesn’t always understand me, God only knows where such a conversation might take me with this FB AI. This is one mean AI, and I must have really made her mad. Old Man Living with His AIs

Remember when I first mentioned the movie Terminator? This kind of feels that way to me, like this particular AI has decided to effectively kill me off. And yet, it’s interesting that if I try to run a paid ad for my books, a much nicer AI takes over and helps me out…even encourages me to post more, for a fee. Well, in many mysteries the detective says, follow the money, so there’s that. Old Man Living with His AIs

There’s one final AI that scares the heck out of me. I keep getting emails from my local power company, offering me an enormous discount of $2.00/month off my electric bill. This is contingent on my giving them permission to control my appliances, presumably also through the use of an AI (either that or some guy’s gonna be really busy sitting there randomly switching everyone in the state’s appliances off and on). Old Man Living with His AIs

Perhaps I misunderstand this program. But it appears to me that the power company wants the ability to turn off my stove, refrigerator, heat pump, dishwasher, washer/dryer, etc. when convenient in order to save electricity and protect the local electrical grid. Old Man Living with His AIs

Personally, this seems like a really bad idea. What if I do something to make this AI mad at me? Want a midnight popcorn snack? Forget it…oven and microwave turned off. Run out of underwear and need to run a quick load of wash? Too bad. That washer/dryer is taking a rest, and you’re going commando until the AI calms down. Just bought groceries, and that hundred-dollar steak, or $75 worth of fresh fish, or $10 case of Pepsi (yes America, we do have massive inflation) needs refrigeration? The frig is off until further notice, so you better cook that meat up and eat it now…whoops, the AI decided this is a good time to shut down the stove, oven and microwave too. So, steak tartare and sushi it is. Old Man Living with His AIs

Just imagine if you had an electric car (see my previous blog). Forget calling in to work in the morning because you couldn’t afford the gas to commute at $10/gallon (yes, America, gas prices are ridiculous. Just call me Captain Obvious). Now, you’ve got to call in to tell your boss that you’ve angered the local power AI and you couldn’t charge your car overnight. Old Man Living with His AIs

The worst part of this whole mess is that when my wife gets angry with me for doing something stupid, I know how to make it right. I grovel, apologize, buy her flowers, take her out to dinner, that sort of thing. But what in the world can I do to make it right when I make an AI mad? I’m gonna go watch the Terminator one last time. Maybe there’s a clue in there somewhere. Or maybe I should just go listen to Roy Clark…I mean Reba. She always makes me feel better. Old Man Living with His AIs

If you liked this blog post, you’ll also enjoy my new book, THE REALTOR’S CURSE. Go to to read the 1st three chapters free and for links to buy the book.