Tuesday, March 12, 2019

The "Ask Alexa" interview - What is the feature's purpose?

Albert Brown interviewed David Markham about the "Ask Alexa" feature which appears daily on the UU A Way Of Life ministries blog.

Al - Dave, many people have been curious about what the "Ask Alexa" feature on the UU A Way Of Life blog is about. Can you describe how it came about?

David - The "Ask Alexa" feature is an attempt in a cryptic, succinct, and direct way to answer some of the primary existential and spiritual questions that can be asked. It is based on the metaphysical philosophy, for the most part, from A Course In Miracles.

Al - It does seem cryptic. Most of the answers are one sentence. Is this intentional?

David - Yes, because philosophical exploration can become very intellectualized and wordy and the reader gets lost in a lot of verbiage. I am amused by the robotic answers of Alexa, and I thought it might be informative and also amusing to use the Alexa metaphor to attempt to answer such esoteric questions of existence.

Al - I notice that you put in a joke, usually a pun, with every entry?

David - Yes, the spiritual life should be fun and humorous. If we don't see the incongruity and absurdity of the ego we are lost and can never transcend our own foolishness and self delusional nonsense. You either laugh or cry.

Al - And it seems like you'd rather laugh?

David - Both, Al. We need to do both. The very idea that AI, artificial intelligence, a robot, Alexa, can teach us the meaning of life is joke in and of itself.

Al - I wondered about that, because I find the use of the metaphor of AI to deal with such questions and concerns as amusing too. So the joke is on the reader?

David - No, the intention is not to joke the reader, but to shift the reader's attention onto a spiritual dimension. Probably most of the time, the ideas in Ask Alexa go over people's heads. I am not sure how many readers find the feature helpful or entertaining.

Al - I do, so at the very least, you have an appreciative audience of one.

David - Thank you Al.

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