Dawn of the Virtual Assistant

  • 2016-07-06
  • The New York Times

You don’t hear many people bellyaching about the servant problem these days.

In 1904, when Saki wrote, “The cook was a good cook, as cooks go, and as cooks go, she went,” this lapidary witticism would have fallen on kind ears. The bourgeoisie of that era talked about the unreliability of hired help with the same willed petulance that we reserve today for conversations about how it takes three remotes to turn on our TV.

Indeed, in today’s world, it seems as if you’d be less likely to hear about a domestic walking out than you would someone falling in love with his virtual assistant.

I recently used a virtual assistant named Amy for 10 days. We did not fall in love, but I should point out that Amy is underage because she is still in beta. (“I’d say she’s about a teenager now,” Amy’s representative told me. “Which means occasionally moody and incorrigible.”)

My relationship with Amy was less Lord Grantham/the housemaid Jane than the sorcerer’s apprentice/his bucket.