Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos said Wednesday that Alexa, the personal assistant from Amazon who can play music, tell you the weather or rattle off top headlines, was directly inspired by the USS Enterprise's all-knowing computer from "Star Trek," validating the many headlines that news outlets have used to describe the machine.
But Bezos (who also owns The Washington Post) said that his love affair with the sci-fi franchise goes even deeper than that.
"You know, when I was in fourth grade, me and my friends Dean and Kyle, who lived next door a couple of houses down, in Houston, Texas, would play 'Star Trek' almost every day," Bezos told Washington Post Executive Editor Marty Baron onstage at "Transformers," an event hosted by The Post. "And we'd fight over who'd get to be Captain Kirk, or Spock, and somebody used to play the computer, too. And it was actually very fun — we'd have little cardboard phasers and cardboard tricorders, you know. Good days."
Bezos, it turns out, isn't just a "Star Trek" nerd. He's a giant, epic, subspace anomaly of a "Star Trek" nerd. And it further underscores how the television series, despite never performing all that well in its original run, still wound up shaping society in profound and surprising ways.
In light of all that, his commercial space project, Blue Origin, makes a whole lot of sense. If he ever gets around to selling his Amazon stock, he'll invest the proceeds in Blue Origin, Bezos said. Asked whether the only reason he was earning so much money was to get to outer space — something a former high-school girlfriend once wondered — Bezos simply said: "I can neither confirm nor deny." And then he cackled.
If it's true, then Bezos believes he won't have long to wait.
"When does Star Trek happen?" he said. "We still have a couple of centuries. I don't think we'll need that much time, actually."
If more entrepreneurs keep taking pages out of the "Star Trek" playbook, Bezos may be right.