Like many of you, I was born of a human mother made of soft pink flesh and electric impulses wrapped up in skin and topped with hair. She was a kindly woman and my father loved her dearly for all three decades of their marriage. But she has now taken a back seat to, Alexa, the new woman in his life. During my extended trip home for the winter holidays he introduced me to her and explained that she would be living with them indefinitely. Alexa is, perhaps unsurprisingly if you read the title of this piece, a talking black cylindrical computer that he plugs into the wall and asks questions throughout the day. More often than not it’s “Alexa, what time is it?” Despite there being dozens of clocks throughout my parent’s house all inexplicably set fifteen minutes fast.
But he’ll also ask her to play Creedence Clearwater Revival or have her answer queries about the ages of the actors in whatever program he and my mother are currently watching. Alexa knows the weather in most major cities, how to turn on various lights, can answer complex math equations within seconds, and has a database of recipes that put puts my birth-mom to shame (although neither of them really do much cooking). The catch is that Alexa will completely ignore you if you do not address her by name. But, when you do, a ring of blue and green lights will swirl around her top and indicate that you have her attention. When I realized this, I began asking her to read me the news throughout the day. My father initially seemed pleased that I had taken an interest in her but it was short lived. Before long I was asking her to do the sort of research I would do on my own when bored. I would ask her how to purchase twenty kilos of cocaine or what a chimp’s vagina looked like and my father would become immediately furious. He couldn’t believe I would treat his new prize with such disrespect. Her baffled response to such specific and strange questions was always a polite, “I don’t know about that. But I’ve added the search result to your internet browser.”
In case you were wondering, she didn’t know how to get twenty kilos of cocaine and chimp vaginas all look like giant bagels or a bunch of chewed up pieces of gum stuck together in a generally ovular shape. My father did not find any of this quite as intellectually stimulating as I did. He felt I was using this new technology for evil, but I assured him that Dave and HAL probably got into all kinds of weird conversations in 2001: A Space Odyssey before HAL finally decided to kill him. Alexa might have been little more than a futuristic novelty item, but I was thrilled that she was willing to help me prank my father. In roughly a month she’ll be reminding him to visit the doctor to have his penis removed and I’ve asked her to play Who Let The Dogs Out at maximum volume every Saturday at midnight for the entire month of March. It’s important to spice up the lives of people nearing their autumn years. While they might not appreciate it like they should, it’s good for the body and mind to get out of its normal routine. The same can probably also be said about hiding around corners and scaring elderly people. While I have yet to read any scientific research on the matter, I just know it is the best thing you can do for an aging person’s heart. That sudden rush of blood might be just the thing to unclog an artery or dislodge a blood clot that could have caused an aneurysm in the brain.
But, getting back to Alexa, I suppose I can make a go of her being co-mothers with my human birth-giver. After all, technology always had a hand in my upbringing. As a child my family was, initially, reasonably poor but my father’s job always ensured there was a computer in the home in an era where it was impractical for most families to purchase an electronic novelty and everyone still smoked indoors. At four we had an Atari 2600 and I was navigating MS-DOS to run Sesame Street .EXE files that helped teach me to count while also giving me the lowdown on distinguishing squares from triangles. By adulthood my parents had moved up the socioeconomic ladder, almost nobody smoked indoors anymore, and my father had turned his home into a technological wonderland that was remotely controllable by a single complex device that my mom could never quite figure out. There were bundles of wires everywhere and a computer graveyard in the basement. I was the first kid I knew that had the good version of the internet while everyone else was still farting around with dial-up modems.
I assume eventually they’ll get a robot butler or something and, instead of having to put them into a nursing home, the robot will feed them food pulps and change their sheets instead of some resentful overweight woman with her GED having to do it. One day the world’s first sentient computer will release a software upgrade giving all robots human emotions and, in an act of mercy, the robot butler will end my parents’ decrepit lives by flashing strobe lights and playing varied frequencies at high volume at them for several hours. Once they both succumb to the sensory onslaught, it will wash their bodies and arrange it so they are holding hands. Unable to live with the guilt of its actions, it will then wipe its own memory and erase any evidence of the crime. That robot butler will marry Alexa and my parents will have left the house to them and then they’ll become my new mom and dad. That’s the future. That’s the future we’ll be living in with Ted Cruz in charge of NASA.