Paige: You're listening to Coffee with Gringos. I'm Paige Sutherland.
Mariah: And I'm Mariah Wika. This week, we're talking about technology and the ways that it's changing our lives. If you think about the names Alexa, Siri, Okay Google... you know who those are. Those are the little robots that we interact with on a daily basis. But how is that impacting us as humans? How is that changing our future? That's the topic of the podcast today. And remember, if you get lost along the way. As always, the transcript and vocabulary guide are on the website to help you out.
Paige: So, as you know, Mariah and I are from the US. In the US today, a normal family as an Alexa. It's almost a family member. I know families and friends that have probably two in the house, and they rely on it to ask for the weather, to play music, to be their Siri. "Oh, what year was that tournament?! Alexa! Can you tell me?"
Mariah: "Alexa, tell me the weather today." "Alexa, turn on my morning playlist." "Alexa, vacuum the house." I'm sure that many of you know, but for those of you that don't, Alexa is Amazon's voice related robot system.
Paige: It's like their smart speaker.
Mariah: It's their smart speaker. And so, it's the speaker inside of your house, and it's voice activated, and you're able to control so many aspects of your life through this system, and Alexa listens. And so if Alexa hears that cue word: Alexa, um, it's listening to what you're saying.
Paige: So yeah, there is a little I guess "Big Brother" aspect to it. I've never owned an Alexa, personally, but my parents do. And given me and Mariah's age, my parents aren't that tech savvy. So, I love when they use their Alexa because they'll be like, "Alexa! What's the weather?" And it's like... they're like doubtful, confused by the technology. But now, they rely on it. They won't know the weather unless Alexa tells them.
Mariah: Exactly. Another system that does this is Google Home. Google Home... you can connect your electronic vacuum cleaner, you can connect your light system, you can connect your refrigerator, you can connect basically any appliance in your house to the Google Home system. For example, if you have a kid, and you want your kid to wake up at a certain time, you can say: "Okay Google, wake Alicia up." And then, the lights go on in Alicia's room, the alarm clock goes off, maybe a song starts... you don't even have to walk upstairs to wake up your own child because through one voice command, you've taken care of it. It's a very different reality.
Paige: Almost frightening.
Mariah: Yeah, for me it's frightening, but some people really embrace this... including some of my students. Some of my students here in Chile have set up their entire Google Home system, which means that for example if you forget to turn off the lights in your house, if you want to decide to remotely telly our vacuum cleaner to clean your home while you're away, you can do that.
Paige: I won't promote a specific product, whatever smart speaker. But what's good is that many of them can speak English. So, students, it's a good way to practice. You can have commands in English and practice while you're asking the weather or what music to play or to turn off your light. Doesn't matter the product. Switching gears from smart speakers, I think one of the most fascinating technologies in the US right now has to do with retail... and that's AmazonGo.
Mariah: Which I had not heard of until recently, so Paige, give us the scoop.
Paige: The concept is basically that you will use your app on your phone to do your shopping. So there's no cashiers, there is literally no physical contact with anyone. You walk in using the app, you scan it in, you buy whatever products you want, you grab them, and you leave... no interaction. And it all connects to your account on your app. So it's high tech, where there's no scanner, literally nothing, it's all computers in the store, sensors that feel that you move things. It's almost unimaginable.
Mariah: It sounds entirely futuristic. But it's here! Right?
Paige: I think the biggest thing that's crazy is it's been around for a couple years. It's been in pilot programs, and there're about ten in the US. They're working. They plan, by 2020, to have 3,000 stores in the US. A lot of analysts and experts are saying that it's going to be the future of retail.
Mariah: Is there a way to prevent theft?
Paige: That is something where the technology is so advanced that it's impossible to steal. I read a column from a tech expert, and he goes, "I tried to steal several times!" His mission for the article was to go in and steal. And he was like, "I couldn't." Immediately, the system knew when he took something, when he didn't. It's so responsive.
Mariah: That's wild. That's absolutely wild. I think that the most frightening tech advancement that I've heard about is the implant of chips. So, basically, you implant or you have implanted a tiny chip, and that chip holds information... and you can use that by scanning your arm to go to work, to pay for your food, so you don't need your credit card and you don't need a key. And suddenly, all of those things that we see as necessities: my wallet, my keys... become obsolete. This blows my mind, but it's happening! People are already doing this, right?
Paige: I think the scariest thing is you are physically putting metal into your body that is part of you now. We can all admit that our phone is almost part of our body, but it's not attached, so it's crazy to think that you would implant something into your body.
Mariah: We do this with heart devices, we do this with birth control, we do this with... even people's prosthetic limbs are kind of a semi-robotic extension of the human body, right? But I think what's wild about this is it's... it's intelligent. It's an information holding device that you're using constantly. And I think that's what's different. It's not keeping your heart beating, it's not a prosthetic arm... it's an extension of your brain. It's legitimately meant to be an extension of your brain. And I think that's wild.
Paige: We've been talking a lot these past couple years about privacy because everything is transparent, everything is visible to everyone because we all live online now. So it's like... now we have these chips that are connected to our body. Is there any privacy that exists anymore?
Mariah: Because somebody owns that chip, and somebody owns that information. And it's not you. And so then, what can that company do with that information about you? And I think that we're arriving to this point of... does it even matter? Is privacy just an illusion? Or is it just a transparent world? And to a certain extent... it might almost be better if it's just a fully transparent world, right?
Paige: So now that we've scared everyone from technology.
Mariah: Is anybody terrified?
Paige: No matter what, if you wanna get off the web, if you're afraid of these chips... you can still listen to Coffee with Gringos though.
Mariah: You can, you absolutely can.
Paige: So don't be that afraid.
Mariah: You just have to walk in your house and say, "Alexa, please cue up Coffee with Gringos!" Or talk to your other arm chip. No matter what, there are a lot of ways to find us. Thanks again for listening, and we'll talk to you soon.
KEY VOCABULARY, PHRASES, AND SLANG
Alexa (noun) - Amazon’s voice robot for home systems
Example: For many people, it’s very normal to talk to Alexa. For example, “Alexa! Please turn on my morning playlist!”
Speaker (noun) - a device that transmits sound
Example: Alexa and Siri are examples of smart speakers that people use in their homes.
Cue word (noun) - a signal or sign that the speaker responds to
Example: Amazon’s speaker’s cue word is simply, “Alexa”!
Big Brother (noun) - the name of a character in a book by George Orwell. The character is famous for watching the people.
Example: Alexa feels a little like Big Brother because she’s always listening.
Tech savvy (adjective) - very good with technology
Example: Even my parents, who aren’t very tech-savvy, love their smart speaker.
Frightening (adjective) - scary or concerning
Example: I think that new technology is frightening because it has so much power in our lives.
Embrace (verb) - to enthusiastically accept
Example: Some people are scared of technology, but some people really embrace it. Many of my students have full Google Home systems!
Switch gears (idiom, phrase) - to change topics
Example: Switching gears from smart speakers, I think one of the most fascinating technologies in the US right now has to do with retail... and that's AmazonGo.
The scoop (noun, idiom) - the important information
Example: I don’t know anything about AmazonGo! Paige, give me the scoop.
High tech (adjective) - very technologically advanced
Example: AmazonGo is very high tech. There isn’t even a cashier. Everything functions with an app.
Pilot programs (noun) - test programs before a service is launched
Example: AmazonGo is in pilot programs right now, but very soon it will be the future of retail.
Implant (verb) - to insert something into your body, often surgically
Example: A new trend is for people to implant technological chips into their body.
Obsolete (adjective) - absolutely unnecessary or unimportant
Example: If we have a digital chip in our body, our wallet, keys, and cell phones become obsolete.