Research shows we’re attracted to Alexa’s Amazon Echo, Google Home and Siri for satisfying our every need. And shrinks understand why.
When Alexa turns on the lights, she’s also turning on a number of her users.
A new industry report focusing on voice-activated systems such as Amazon Echo (voiced by Alexa) and Google Home finds that many of us are forming emotional attachments to our virtual assistants.
“Over a third (37%) of regular voice technology users say that they love their voice assistant so much that they wish it were a real person,” the researchers write.
And a surprising number of people are taking those feelings to the next level.
“Even more astonishing is that more than a quarter [26%] of regular voice technology users say they have had a sexual fantasy about their voice assistant,” the report added. And a majority of these regular voice technology users are young, male and affluent.
Looks like Spike Jonze’s futuristic 2013 flick “Her,” where Joaquin Phoenix falls for a voice-activated A.I. assistant played by Scarlett Johansson, wasn’t so fantastic, after all.
But relationship experts aren’t shocked that our technology-obsessed society is ready to get intimate with this increasingly intuitive software.
“It actually does make a lot of sense,” clinical psychologist Dr. Michelle Golland told Moneyish. “Voice-activated virtual assistants are not human, so they’re not giving us any of the difficulties of a human relationship, where the other person is complicated and has their own issues coming through.
“That’s part of why it feels so good to speak to one, and why people can express such love for them,” she added, “because your needs are being met pretty efficiently without complication. It feels so positive and empowering and clean.”
And it’s inevitable that dirty thoughts creep into that “clean” relationship. “Sex is one of our basic human needs, so it makes sense that having the transference of positive feelings for this virtual relationship can lead to sexual fantasies,” said Dr. Golland. “That’s just what the human mind does. Food, shelter and sex are our basic drives, so we just kind of go there.”
Dr. David Greenfield, the founder of The Center for Internet and Technology Addiction, agreed. “People place human characteristics onto machines or animals that are projections of their own emotions,” he said – as anyone who regularly talks to his dog can understand. “So even though the voice technology on Google Home or Amazon Echo is really just an algorithm, it’s projecting human qualities. These devices are designed to offer back human-like responses, so that encourages the illusion or delusion that it’s a human being.”
Dr. Greenfield also points out that the internet and sex have a long and sordid history together. “These sexual fantasies don’t surprise me,” he said. “In fact, I think we’re going to see more of that as the interface between people and these devices continues to integrate into our lives in pretty powerful ways.”
Plus, could you imagine telling your spouse to dim the lights just so, or play that song you like, without getting huffy that you’re bossing him or her around? Alexa just gets you.
“How many arguments are there about the temperatures of a room?” laughed Dr. Golland. “So when you have Alexa, and she knows exactly how you want things done, it’s easy to get emotional. This would be the perfect partner!”
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