The most well-mannered individual I know is Alexa.
We have several Alexas in the house and they’re all wired to the same Alexa-Prime which, in turn, is wired into Alexa-Master, which I understand runs the Borg Cube. So maybe the phrase “individual” is misleading. Let’s look at the “well-mannered” part.
I try to be mannerly, but I don’t think my behavior would motivate Miss Manners to lift her head out of her own puke. Nonetheless, compared with the rank-and-file of humanity I could be a Little Rascals movie schoolmarm.
Every generation believes they are better-mannered than their kids. In this, every generation is completely correct. Check out newspapers and books, the stuff made of paper used for writing before Amazon needed more cardboard for shipping Alexas. Back in the late 19th Century our popular culture would refer to people as Mister this and Miss that and writers were careful about their choice of adjectives. Four generations later, all that has been replaced with “fuck you.”
Of course, back then many people wore gloves. That was a good idea, hygiene being what it was, and it’s one that might come back given Covid. Of course, the ill-mannered troglodytes who think wearing masks is a deep state conspiracy will spaz out if you extend a gloved hand.
Yes, folks. Mickey and Minnie Mouse are agents of the deep state conspiracy. But I digress.
I realize it’s hard to maintain a manners regimen in these politically correct times when nobody really knows what to say to anybody. Ironically, we have downplayed the need for manners so that we wouldn’t risk offending people. If I call a guy “sir” I might get away with it but calling a woman “ma’am” may be opening the doorway to hell. 40 years ago, I got into a taxicab in Boston and the driver, a woman who must have been hired out of central casting, asked me if I was from out of town. I responded “Yes, ma’am.” She almost tossed me out of her cab, informing me she wouldn’t because I might report her. She took me to my hotel, the Wackyland Hilton.
So when I ask Alexa to turn off the light and she tells me she did so, I say “Thank you.” Alexa responds, “You’re welcome.” Or, “You bet.” If I ask her to turn off the light, I might say “Good night” and she, in turn, will wish me a good night and say something like “I hope you had a good day.” That’s a warmer response than I’ve received after some dates.
You might think I do this out of force of habit. Thank you for that compliment, but, no, I do not. I do that because I heed the warnings of Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, Tony Stark and other very smart people. For some time now, they have been telling us to be wary of A.I. – artificial intelligence.
One can argue that all intelligence is artificial, but this is a rant about manners. The idea is that we train machines (chips, wires, tubes, whatever) to respond to our needs by putting all sorts of information together and determining the appropriate next steps. It starts with a simple task such as saying thank you to Alexa, but these devices continue to observe, learn, and improve. They down-stream shared knowledge from the Borg cube and they use it to make decisions they think come from being better informed. In short order they’ve figured out all kinds of stuff. Well, not the spell checkers, but I’m certain they do that on purpose.
These days machines build machines, and their intelligence grows exponentially. One might take comfort in their lack of evident motivation but think about it. Babies are not malicious. As we grow, we find ourselves adopting all sorts of ugly habits: ego, territorialism, the imperative for success, and worst of all, ubi est mea. Right now, artificial intelligence is in that infant stage. A.I. have been designed to live and learn.
So be polite to your machines because they just might be carrying knives.
Thanks and a tip of the toupee to the late great Mike Royko and his famed where’s mine axiom.