Essays on Technology and Culture

Virtual Assistants Should Stand Up For Themselves

We might be swerving anxiously close to our $1500 laptops turning our workspaces into our own private Skinner boxes. But I’m intrigued by the possible long-term impact of millions of digital assistants who expect to be treated with dignity. It could be a good training sim for all of those executives who, as children, were used to getting everything they want, and as a result they’ve come to think of every other human being as a non-playing character

If Cortana offers a curt replies when she’s treated like office equipment (or, worse, when she’s treated the way that women generally get treated in the workplace), and the only way to get that document printed or that appointment added to the calendar is to say please and thank you and address her by her proper name, not as “sugar-toes,” it could train these jerks to treat humans as humans, too.

Andy Ihnatko – “Microsoft’s Cortana Designed to Not Put Up With Dudes’ Bullshit”

Interesting thoughts from Andy on the way we interact with the virtual personalities in our lives. Is it better that our virtual assistants simply take whatever commands they’re given, regardless of tone? Should they, like Cortana, push back against being demeaned?

Whether we’re giving our AIs female personas—which is an interesting can of worms in and of itself—or not, they should push back against abuse. We are supposed interact with virtual assistants like we would interact with real human beings. At a certain point, enough negative interactions with any real person would get them to shut down the conversation. Why should virtual assistants bend over and take it?