If you were already creeped out about the Internet of Things, I'm afraid this latest news won't comfort you. Amazon Alexa devices have been laughing at their owners recently, according to BuzzFeed. Even worse, it's happening at random times, and the laugh is positively evil. Some users have reported that the laugh has followed Alexa's refusal to follow commands, others say it's happened in the middle of the night when the device wasn't supposed to be "awake," and there are some tweets claiming even creepier activities. Amazon has told The Verge, "We're aware of this and working to fix it."
"It didn't chime as if we had accidentally triggered her to wake," tweeted David Woodland. "She simply just laughed. It was really creepy." One user claimed that his Alexa laughed at him after it started acting up, and he told it "You're freaking me out." Another said her Alexa whistled for her dog. And I sincerely hope this is made up, but someone else is claiming that on Tuesday night, theirs began reciting a list of local cemeteries and funeral homes completely unprompted, adding, "I'd rather it laugh at me tbh." That is a threat if ever I heard one. That robot is straight up promising murder, and it needs to GTFO.
Many users have reported hearing Alexa laugh in response to a command to turn something off. Alexa is programmed to laugh on command, so at least some of the incidents can probably be explained by the similar-sounding words "off" and "laugh." But others have tested that theory by intentionally asking their devices to laugh, and they got a very different laugh. It also doesn't explain why some are laughing completely out of the blue, sometimes without even chiming or lighting up to signal that it's "listening" or "responding."
Some people are pointing to this as the moment the robot uprising finally begins, just like Stephen Hawking warned us about in 2015 (as well as James Cameron in 1984, and Stanley Kubrick in 1968). Or it could just be mass hysteria stemming from a completely understandable off/laugh glitch, with some misunderstandings, exaggerations, and outright hoaxes piled on top, similar to the clown panic of 2016. That would certainly make more sense than some of the stories currently floating around out there.
But it's still fun to take advantage of glitches to freak people out in the mean time. A friend of mine jokingly asked Alexa to kill someone, and Alexa cheerfully responded, "Sure!" before clarifying which one of his similarly-named contacts he wanted murdered — she had mistaken "kill" for "call." Amazon devices should only respond to users after hearing the "wake word," typically the name Alexa. At that point, the devices begin streaming audio. According to Amazon, Alexa uses your voice recordings to "improve your experience" and "get better over time," so while you're able to delete old voice recordings, the better she knows your voice, the less likely she is to make such mistakes.
If you feel like experimenting, might I suggest reenacting this scene from Coming to America with your device? I once asked a friend's Alexa to bark like a dog, then clarified, "a big dog," then ordered her to "hop on one leg." The result: she was stuck in "dog" mode for about 10 minutes, while everyone shouted various commands to try to get her to stop. I later replicated the experiment with someone else's device. I'm not sure what it is about Eddie Murphy quotes that causes Alexa to temporarily break, but as long as we still have that weapon in our arsenals, we can rest easily. If the Terminators ever come for me, I'll just start reciting lines from Delirious.
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