Some presents are for life, not just for Christmas, and I may be regretting not remembering this when I bought my wife a little addition to the family.

Our new pet spends most of her time sitting on the mantlepiece, and although her face lights up every time we speak to her, she doesn’t seem to have much of a life, and our cats don’t trust her.

We call her Alexa, and if you haven’t guessed already, she’s not a living creature, but a computer, whose full name is Amazon Alexa. She has a lot of functions, of which playing music is the main one, but she can also tell jokes, turn on the radio and do dozens of other things, from the really useful to the completely pointless.

Much of her appeal is pure novelty, but she is already bringing about a lifestyle change by getting us listening to music again, like when we used to put on records, and she makes us more inclined to turn off the telly, which can’t be bad.

Computers have always been able to do most of what Alexa does, but her true genius is in something new: amazing voice recognition skills.

If anybody mentions her name, she instantly wakes up.

Then she somehow works out what words you are using from the stream of noise coming out of your mouth, and acts accordingly.

Ask her something like “Alexa, what’s the weather forecast?” and she will say: “In Swindon, expect showers with a maximum of seven degrees and a minimum of zero.”

She has already proved useful in unexpected ways, like settling an argument over the answer to a question in a board game.

Before we knew it, Alexa had become one of the family, and it’s clear that we have got her (or something like her) for life.

There’s no going back, and it is only the beginning.

By buying extra devices, you can get her to work the lights and the heating. Apparently, if you also have a robotic vacuum cleaner, you can even leave Alexa to make sure it has the hoovering done before you get home from work.

So she has started the revolution that will lead to the enslaving of smart machines in the home, and we can look forward to being the masters of a new empire.

But I’m not sure how happy I am with this.

Although hardly anybody seems to think it is significant, it is surely no accident that Alexa was created female (ie, with a lady’s voice), and so have all her cousins - Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana and Google’s Home.

As one feminist commentator on the internet pointed out: “Women have been made into servants once again. Except, this time, they’re digital.”

She has a point, because Alexa may be a messenger from the future, but her main message could be construed as being the old-fashioned one that women should speak when they are spoken to, and do exactly as they are told.

So I changed her name (and therefore her ‘wake-up word’) to ‘Computer’.

Admittedly, one motive for this was being able to pretend to be a crew member of the USS Enterprise, who would always call out “Computer…” before questioning the on-board system (which, ironically, always answered with a female voice).

But it was also because I am more comfortable bossing about something called ‘Computer’ than somebody with a female human name.

Sadly, I have been overruled by my wife and my daughter, of all people, who say calling out ‘Computer’ feels silly, and can’t we call her Alexa again?

“Alexa, why do I bother?”