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  • Writer's pictureKL Forslund

Nobody Needs Alexa?

I was looking for Alexa articles to read, when I came across one from the Irish Times. The author gives a good chiding in what I imagined an Irish accent about how I don’t need a digital assistant like Alexa. Where was she when I spent the last year Alexafying my house? She makes a good point, but I will take a stab at why I did it anyway.

The Case Against Alexa

Una Mullally has a practical point of view. She’s spot on that these things do nothing we can’t already do. Like play music or look out the window to check the weather. I agree, which is why I don’t use my Alexa to do those things. Here’s what she has to say:

Stuff I don’t use Alexa For

I haven’t played music out loud in my house in twenty years. About as long as I’ve been married. Sharing a space means the other person doesn’t want to hear what I want to hear when I want to hear it. Namely Iron Maiden while I program all day.

I remember when I was researching whether to get one, and all my friends said they used it to check the weather, and I was baffled by that. I’m even less preoccupied with the weather than Ms. Mullally suspects, I wait until I go outside to figure out it might be too cold for shorts.

So Why Have One

I got into home automation, which Alexa plays a part, because my wife would be gimped up for several months from foot surgery. Making it so she could turn on some lights or unlock the front door when a friend came over came in handy. For people with difficulties, this stuff solves problems.

Now my wife healed up, and I remain somewhat bendy. It’s still useful. When my hands are full, turning on lights as I enter the house by voice works well. My wife can build up a shopping list over the day as she thinks of things, and Alexa can show it to me. Works better than trying to remember all day or on a piece of paper that gets lost.

The Echo Show is handy in the kitchen. We set multiple timers without resetting each other like we used to when we shared the one on the microwave. It can display a recipe

Life in the Twenty First Century

I’m certain in the 18th century, they bought groceries, lit candles, left notes for each other and unbarred doors. Then in the 19th century, they did those things with improved technology. And somebody pointed out that candles and inkwells did the job just fine. Same thing now. I truly am the lord of my house, it turns on lights and locks things at my command.

That article is spot on for why I don’t need a digital assistant, by only looking to the past. What I can already do.

What I Can Do Tomorrow

I have either wasted my money automating my entire house, or I’m on the cusp of something bigger. I’m not an early adopter, but I am a tech guy. After waiting for my friends to waste their money, I found the tech to be affordable and reliable enough. I could envision a few uses to justify the purchase of a new toy, while opening the future. I solve problems for a living and bend technology to my will. So once I got my hands on it, like a bad management cliche, problems became opportunities.

  • I used to forget to lock the door at night or when we left. Problem solved.

  • My friend’s kids always left the lights on at night. Problem solved.

  • A friend needs to come check on my pets because we’re running super long. Problem solved.

  • I left the thermostat off and I’m not home and it’s too hot for the pets. Problem solved.

  • My wife needs a reminder 30 minutes after she takes a first pill for a second pill. Problem Solved.

This is all stuff that became obvious once you have the pieces. It isn’t just the Alexa, it’s the stuff I got to support it and the scripting I setup.

The Secret to My Success

If you only buy an Alexa or whatever today, you don’t have much. Una’s right. The best thing you can do is set timers and manage a shopping list. But wait, there’s more. I have Z-Wave smart switches and door locks and a Samsung SmartThings hub. That hub is very customizable. The real brains is that hub and what I can add onto it and script. Alexa is just the voice of the band. Life gets a lot cooler and automated. I don’t have a rock band joke to finish the metaphor here. Just roll with it.

I also get to tinker. Maybe that’s a waste of money, but anytime a person’s using their brain seems like a decent idea to me. So all this might be a redundant replacement for the old ways, but at least I had some puzzles to solve.

PS: I wrote this rebuttal article in jest (and I was inspired). I’m not cool enough to subscribe to the Irish Times to leave Una Mullally a comment. It would be fun if she saw this and replied, but I am no way mentally inclined or capable to win a debate about why I bought something. She writes for a living, so she’s good at it. I write to get you to stick around for when I finish writing my novel. :)

Also, a Putrid Glowing One just ripped my wife’s arms off and killed her in Fallout 4 while I write this. That says a lot about our priorities in my house.

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