The basic premise of the vast majority of dystopian novels involve technology overtaking humanity, and all because humans just wanted to make life easier. Now, it looks like we're one step closer to that becoming a reality because Amazon just argued in court that its artificial intelligence bot Alexa has First Amendment rights, just like you and me.
Let's backtrack for a second. A few months ago, a man from Arkansas named Victor Collins was found dead in his friend James Bates's hot tub, and Bates quickly became the prime suspect in the murder case. Local police confiscated Bates's Amazon Echo device and ordered the company to turn over any and all recorded conversations from the device during the time of the murder. But Amazon is standing its ground and refusing to give those files up.
"At the heart of that First Amendment protection is the right to browse and purchase expressive materials anonymously, without fear of government discovery," Amazon said in a court filing. "For this reason, courts have recognized that government demands for records of an individual's requests for and purchases of expressive material implicate First Amendment concerns."
Amazon isn't blatantly refusing to hand over the recordings of conversations between Bates and Alexa. The company is, however, making the claim that the Arkansas police do not, at this time, have a strong enough case to warrant the acquisition of these recordings. Basically, Amazon is putting up a fight in this groundbreaking case regarding AI so as to protect the technology in the future against police haphazardly seizing home assistants like Alexa (or Apple's Siri or Google Home, for that matter).
All of this isn't new to the U.S court system; citizens' consumption of expressive material has been protected in cases since America was founded. But things start to get really exciting in the filing when Amazon cites that Alexa itself, despite not actually being a human, has the right to protection under the First Amendment.
"In addition to the recordings of user requests for information, Alexa's responses are also protected by the First Amendment," Amazon said. "Alexa's decision about what information to include in its response, like the ranking of search results, is 'constitutionally protected opinion' that is 'entitled to 'full constitutional protection.''"
Now we're just waiting for a court case where Alexa herself is called to the witness stand to testify.