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He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named

On my latest trip to CES in Las Vegas, as I changed planes at Heathrow, I did what many parents do when you have free time at the airport – I tried to find something to bring home to the kids. This time I bought a Trivial Pursuit game about Harry Potter. I know, it will be a total loss for me playing with my daughter – we need to create special rules giving the rest of the family a chance to win (she needs to answer all questions correct to get a point; I need to answer one. She still wins every time).

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The fictional characters in the books and movies by J.K. Rowling do indeed play a role in the Networked Society. And more precisely to the first finding in this year’s 10 Hot Consumer Trends from ConsumerLab.

The first trend talks about Artificial Intelligence (AI) Everywhere. We know that Google have changed their slogan from “Mobile First” to “AI First”, and their efforts now reach outside the mobile into our everyday life. In the ConsumerLab study, advanced internet users want assistants to support their daily life. They also see that AI could help the companies they work for. One out of four of the advanced internet users in the study even like the idea of AI as a leader of a company.

Our homes become more and more connected and we now have the Alexa Voice Service, Google Home, Siri, and Cortana to help us through our lives. These devices listen in to the conversation around you, processes it, and give you answers directly. It’s like having a friend with bad grammar. Because if you say “thank you, Alexa”, it will wake up only to the last word. To make it work, you need to start saying; “Alexa, thank you”.

Because all of these smart home devices can be enabled for voice activation, they also make our language change. And what happens when you say these activation words without the purpose of using it? Your smart device will listen in and interrupt your conversation. In many homes where Alexa is introduced, the result is that people avoid the activation words. When you have a conversation, avoid the activation words. And please do not invite anyone named Siri, Cortana, or Alexa to your home.

So how does all this connect to Harry Potter? When I played the game with my daughter the other night, I actually knew the answer to one question. The question about “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named”. The student, Tom Riddle, who transformed into Voldemort is mentioned as ”He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named”. Is the rise of AI in our homes the fall for names like Alexa, Cortana, and Siri? Will they disappear from the world when we avoid using their names?

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