There comes a point in every adult’s life when one stops and thinks: I could really use a personal assistant. I know I could. The Washington Post’s budget, however, doesn’t stretch to provide each reporter with a personal aide. But thanks to the magic of technology, I have regular access to five digital assistants: Siri, Cortana, Alexa, Google Now and an email-based scheduling assistant called Amy.
It should be a breeze for anyone trying to get themselves organized as part of a New Year’s resolution. It should be fantastic. But, if I’m perfectly frank, I’m really no closer to getting anything done.
The idea of an assistant is appealing but hard to implement, said Dennis Mortensen, chief executive of x.ai, a company that makes an artificial intelligence assistant that you can copy on your emails to set up appointments. The most popular assistants out there, Mortensen said, are really “enablers” rather than programs that help you. They give you information so you can do things, but don’t actually do much for you.
Not only did I find that out, but I also noticed in the process that you’re giving up a lot of information. These things need to know your schedules, your habits, your favorite contacts and more to work well. That’s about as much, in fact, as you’d have to give to an actual personal assistant — something that may make many uncomfortable.