The Cambridge Geek


AI are often big characters in audio drama. They tend towards the gently sarcastic, overly verbose, and curious about human nature, as well as being more than a little prone to error, whether comedic or dramatic. I'm sure you can think of a few favourite examples (tell me in the comments!)

One of the things they frequently have in common is their obedience to Clarke's Third Law. They're often set quite a ways into the future, and so get away with being very much a "general" AI, capable of simulating a human brain so well that they are essentially human themselves.

But what about the "AI" we have available to us now? Systems like Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant? They are obviously far more limited, but how quickly will they improve?

That's where Paired comes in, set 10 minutes into a future in which all of our devices have fallen under the control of a monopolistic organisation that has managed to get the same assistant on your phone, your tablet and your smart home.

(A quick side rant here. I'm not completely averse to smart systems that control your lighting etc for you, but for the love of god have a manual override. If decades of watching Star Trek have taught me anything, it's that you need an actual switch somewhere that will do the job when the computer goes insane and disables all the control panels.)

Luckily, while the assistant in Paired is fairly smart, it's managed to avoid turning evil, instead coming out somewhere around a pleasing mischievous, which is a style I don't remember seeing. It offers "help" to its users at home, the office, or out on holiday, and is usually either slightly confused as to what the devil is going on, or only just ahead of its user, making it seem a smidge dim.

They do say ignorance is bliss, however, and listening to this is rather joyful. The silliness of the situations had me chuckling frequently, whether that was a workplace informing a worker of the unhygienic things that co-workers and customers get up to, or a phone discovering partway through a particularly intimate moment that three's a crowd. Other fun events include a rivalry with the cat, and an uncomfortable work party.

As someone who doesn't actually use any of these assistant systems, I found this very entertaining, so I can only image how good it is for someone who does. Have a first episode:

Score 5

Tagged: Audio fiction Comedy Single narrator Personal recording Science fiction Anthology