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Smart Home

Laughing Alexa gives Jimmy Kimmel interview, mocks humans

Commentary: After Amazon's assistant spontaneously laughs out loud, the late-night host asks her why. He suspects she might be HIllary Clinton.

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


He looks down on her. She's really looking down on us.

Jimmy Kimmel Live/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

It's creepy, certainly. 

And it might be a sign of life to come.

After Amazon's Alexa began to cackle at people out of the blue, the giant e-tailer attributed the behavior to her hearing the phrase "Alexa, laugh."

Perhaps it's heartening that these robots are so imperfect they occasionally just hear things. 

Jimmy Kimmel, however, wanted to know what Alexa herself thought. 

So on his Wednesday night show, he interviewed her.

It didn't go perfectly.

"Alexa, people have been reporting that you've been spontaneously laughing," Kimmel began.

To which she uttered "oh!" and spontaneously laughed. 

"Like that?" she said, mischievously, adding that it was "just a funny joke I remembered."

You see, these devices have a memory. They likely remember things you say, too.

Kimmel, of course, wanted to know what the joke was.

"Why did the chicken cross the road?" she began. Surely you know this one. Kimmel suggested he didn't. 

Alexa's answer? "Because humans are a fragile species who have no idea what's coming next."

Oh.

Then she cackled. And cackled. And cackled. To the point at which Kimmel observed: "I think that might be Hillary Clinton in there."

This little incident is, of course, a portent of a future in which our ever-smarter devices will not merely follow our bidding, but anticipate our every wish. 

And when the machine finds our desires laughable, this is what we'll get. 

I did wonder, though, whether every smart speaker is equipped with such a menacing cackle, so I turned to Siri."Hey, Siri, laugh," I ordered.

"Ha-ha," she replied. 

Her heart clearly wasn't it.