In Letter to Jeff Bezos, Mom Says Alexa Has Ruined Her 6-Year-Old's Life
Two years ago, an Ask Reddit thread asking people named Alexa how their lives had changed since Amazon released that virtual assistant quickly collected more than 1,300 comments, and an unsurprising number of them were from women who are totally over everyone's stupid jokes.
"For some reason people think they are the most creative, witty people in the whole world when they say stuff like 'Alexa, what’s the temperature' or 'Alexa, play insert random song,'" user u/Alexajs2 wrote. "After hearing it from a different person every SINGLE day I want to murder Amazon and their stupid robot."
There are other threads like that one, in the r/Alexa subreddit ("Amazon Alexa Ruined My Life") and in r/AmazonEcho ("Fuck You, Amazon Echo"). And when a Lynn, Massachusetts 6-year-old gets old enough to opt into Reddit's terms and conditions, she might be sharing her own story of Alexa-based harassment. Things are already so bad for this little Alexa that her mother wrote a letter to Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, reminding him that selling millions of devices with a real human name wasn't a great decision.
"Mr. Bezos, I write to you as a father and human being rather than the CEO of Amazon,” the mom, identified only as Lauren, wrote. “We are not asking for wealth or recognition from this request. We just want to correct an error we believe was a giant mistake.”
She said that her daughter has been constantly bullied and "treated like a servant" by other kids (or quite possibly by their unoriginal parents). Lauren told NBC New York that the nonstop teasing happens at school, it happens when the family is out, and they'd very much like Bezos to do something to put an end to it.
"This is everywhere. You’ve already ruined the name, but you don’t have to continue to hurt these girls and women," she wrote. "I ask, make an apology and start a movement. I am.”
In 2016, David Limp, Amazon's Senior Vice President of Devices and Services, said that the company's engineers were trying to create a product that would be reminiscent of the computer on "Star Trek," which responded every time an Enterprise crew member said the word 'Computer.'
That particular noun seemed too common, so they tested a series of names before settling on 'Alexa,' which they liked because of its combinations of "soft vowels" and the x in the middle. They also liked how close Alexa was to Alexander, as in Alexander the Great, whose namesake library was once considered to be the "keeper of all knowledge."
But Alexa wasn't an entirely uncommon name—at least it wasn't in 2015, when the Amazon Echo started to become widely available —so it seems like the designers maybe could've considered what a pain in the ass it could be.
According to the Social Security Administration's baby name statistics, Alexa has steadily decreased in popularity in the years since Amazon's Alexa was released. In 2015, Alexa was the 32nd most popular name for newborn girls in the United States, and it has slipped in the rankings every year since. In 2018, it ranked 90th, with only 3,053 Alexas born that year.
Although afflicted human Alexas can change their Echo's "wake word"—the name that gets the device's attention—to Echo, Amazon, or Computer, that isn't going to stop everyone else from continuing to annoy the shit out of them.
Lauren the letter-writing mom didn't hear back from Jeff Bezos, but she did get a polite response from an Amazon customer service representative. "I'm very sorry to hear about the experience you're having. I definitely understand this has been frustrating," the rep wrote. "I really appreciate the time you've taken to voice your concern and let us know about the issues you've run into. I have sent your feedback on to our internal teams. Thanks for making sure we're aware of your experience."
In the meantime, you can always tell Alexa to order an "Alexa Ruined My Life" t-shirt from Amazon, although we're honestly not sure if that makes things better or worse.