Alexa and the Bird Brain

Well, it's come to this. Apparently, a parrot used Alexa to order some stuff off the internet.

This important news item comes to us from The Sun, a British tabloid. It appears that Buddy, a five-year-old African grey parrot, used his owner's Echo to place an order with Amazon. When bird-owner Corienne Pretorius came home one evening, she was amused to hear Buddy spouting his usual gibberish. She heard the Echo respond by saying, "Sorry, I didn't quite get that." Buddy astutely said, "Alexa" and Alexa replied, "What is it you want to order?"

Corienne didn't really think much about it. An hour later, while working on her laptop, she received an order confirmation from Amazon that an order had been placed. She asked her husband and son if they had ordered anything and they had not. She asked Alexa what her last order was, and it was a set of cheap decorative gift boxes — something she would never have bought. Then she realized that Buddy and Alexa had consummated the transaction. Interestingly, the humans in the household had never used Alexa to place an order, so Buddy wasn't simply repeating the commands. Customers using Alexa are asked to confirm their purchases so somehow, someway, Alexa was able to extract an apparently meaningful "Yes" from Buddy's nonsense.

Of course, we have all experienced the weirdness of trying to communicate with voice recognition software. You say, "Call Jim" and it responds, "205 miles remaining." You repeat, "Call Jim!" and it says, "84 degrees and sunny." You say, "CALL JIM!" and it replies, "Please enter your PIN number." I can hardly imagine how weird the conversation between a gibberish-spouting bird and Alexa was. Consider — an unintelligent bird which is able to mimic human speech but not understand it or respond to it, interacting with an artificially intelligent software program that can both speak and understand speech, but cannot tell the difference between a cognizant being and a bird brain. Somehow, together they managed to complete a logical sequence of interactive communication.

Anyway, if you own a parrot and an Amazon Echo, and you keep getting mysterious boxes of crackers in the mail, you now have a good idea of who the co-conspirators are. You might also want to turn off your Alexa's voice purchasing feature. Also, please note that orders for physical products placed with Alexa are eligible for free returns.

dommyluc's picture

As a proud owner of a 19-year-old pet lorikeet who is smarter and more well behaved than most peoples' kids, I take great exception to that remark.
When my bird is in the living room and there is no music playing, he walks up to the Onkyo receiver and starts tapping it with his beak because he wants me to turn it on.
He figured out how to press the "Power" button on my Harmony remote to turn my system on.
When he needs fresh water he imitates the sound of running water coming from the kitchen faucet.
Yeah, he's really stupid.

otaku's picture

Ken, try Googling for Alex the Parrot

drny's picture

Ken, if you didn't say it I will. Alexa, Siri,Echo, Google Home network and other such "Aids" are indeed for bird brains.
Or as they are more commonly known, Millennials.

John_Werner's picture

Well you have to hand it to Amazon in that they have now concocted a way to add additional orders on an account that actually were ordered if not intended.