Netflix Has a Funny Idea of How Digital Assistants Should Work

In the first episode of the second season of Netflix’s Too Hot to Handle, ten horny singles are partying on a beach until, from the depths, shrouded in mist, what looks like a fanciful RGB aromatherapy diffuser emerges. Cue shaking and distressed cries. Netflix Has a Funny Idea of How Digital Assistants Should Work This is no ordinary gadget. This is Lana, Netflix’s fake voice assistant whose sole purpose is to act like an emotional sherpa and block out the sexiest cocks a casting could find.

The show’s producers would like you to believe that Lana is an AI created specifically for Too Hot to Handle. She has a decidedly robotic voice and is somewhat reminiscent of an Amazon Echo. She also says vaguely technological things about the “analysis” of competitors and the calculation of the “probability” of which beauties can form meaningful connections. Don’t break the rules too often, the show tells its competitors. Lana can and sees it all.

Look, sure, this is the typical artifice of reality shows. At this point, we’ve all interacted with some sort of digital assistant to know that currently, even the best can’t converse with humans naturally, let alone dispensing advice, making appointments, and performing social experiments on himbo amorosi. and bimbos. Of course, we all know deep in our heads that Lana is a replacement for the producers of Too Hot to Handle. The only reason you’re able to suspend your disbelief is because this “technology” is based on truth, right? Our Amazon Echoes, Google Nest Hubs, and smartphones are always listening, and on the other side are people paid to listen to snippets of our conversations to improve mysterious algorithms.

Yes, but also no. Netflix would like you to believe that Lana is a plausible example of what’s possible. And even if you know better, part of you believes in the idea of ​​a future where you are friends with your sassy digital assistant. This is a classic science fiction case informing our expectations of how future technology will work, and if past examples are any indication, that’s not the way things generally go.

One of the most famous examples are AR touch screens in Minority Report. As a company, it has captured the imagination to the point where tech companies are actually experimenting with transparent displays and wearable gloves to control what you see in AR and VR. There’s just the annoying problem that ambient light makes transparent displays a bit useless, and consumers have absolutely hated gadgets like the ill-fated Power Glove. James Bond had a video smartwatch in Octopussy which was a real gadget at the time. (It was the Seiko TV Watch, and as you might expect it crashed and burned.) Today, you can video chat via your wrist, and you can technically watch YouTube on a smartwatch. It’s just that few people really want to do these things in real life.

As for digital assistants, Lana can probably be traced back to a long history of movies like her and fictional counterparts like Iron Man’s Jarvis. And to be fair, companies have done their best to make this sci-fi notion of being emotionally. stick to the voices of disembodied robots one thing. In 2018, Google revealed its “Continuous Conversation” feature, which was supposed to make Google Assistant a more natural conversation partner. A year later, Amazon programmed Alexa to respond with more emotion. This year, Apple gave us more options for how Siri might sound so that it could be more “inclusive” and Google had its own cosplay AI robots like Pluto and a paper airplane to showcase their conversation skills.

But while tech companies might program their assistants to be nicer, let’s be real – they’re virtual butlers, and no amount of personality will stop you from throwing them on the curb the moment they stop serving you. Adorable social robots like Kuri and Jibo? They bit the dust in 2018. Part of the reason the original HomePod failed is that Siri sucks at her job. Does Lana work in the confines of a TV show where silly, sexy people are somehow never on their phones, but in real life? No one will stand a sarcastic robot who judges your dating choices. You would just unplug her.

You can see it on another Netflix reality show, The Circle. No one with a functioning brain thinks the Circle social network is anything other than an unpaid internal furiously transcribing what competitors are saying. But the illusion he paints is a digital assistant that never makes typos, understands people with all kinds of accents, and does everything you ask for perfectly. This show wouldn’t work otherwise, but it also fuels the idea that this perfect perfection is what we’ll get from our voice assistants in real life someday.

The reality is that humans are unpredictable idiots and tech companies have nearly lost their minds trying to program their digital assistants’ response to sexism and heavy questions like “Are you a feminist?” and “Do all lives matter?” Most of the time, I’m yelling at Alexa / Google Assistant / Siri to shut up why not, I don’t want to interact with them other than “What’s the weather like?” and “Turn on the kitchen lights”.

Of course, it’s just TV and not even intellectual TV. Lana and the Club are simply there to hide the strings of the producers’ puppets. But as mentioned, there is a strange relationship between chicken and egg in how we imaginatively portray technology and what it becomes. With digital assistants, it’s an ourobouros of tech companies trying to convince you that digital assistants are “family” to suck you into their ecosystem and boost their profit margins. The media unwittingly reinforces the idea that robots can have personalities and that we long for a future where we will have these cheeky robot friends. I would say no one really wants this version of digital assistants that is being sold to us. All we want is a polite servant to leave as soon as he doesn’t need to.

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