When even Alexa is tired of listening to Baby Shark …
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Jeremy Bloom has an educated family. But after some failed attempts in which Bloom politely asked Alexa to turn down the volume at dinner time, he shouted, "Alexa, close it."
"To our surprise, the music stopped immediately," says the Pittsburgh area commercial lender. “We laugh at that a lot. And while it's not the best lesson for kids, it's common to tell Alexa to & # 39; compress & # 39; now. "
As we increasingly rely on anthropomorphized artificial intelligence-powered voice assistants in our homes or on our hands for weather information, news, homework and the like, there is a question as to whether these machines deserve the respect that ( we hope) we provide to other human beings.
In other words, we should use words like "please" and "sorry" when we ask Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, or Apple Siri to do something on our behalf – or to say "thank you" when devices are delivered And if we're naughty with Alexa and the others, what does this not only teach our children, but say about our own level of civility?
Sometimes Jeremy Bloom and his “ polite family '' tell Amazon Alexa to “ compress it & # 39; & # 39 ;. (Photo: Jeremy Bloom)
Is digital tag required?
Dr. Laura Phillips, clinical neuropsychologist at the Child Mind Institute, says the answers are "complicated and really different."
A report from last year's UK-based market research firm Childwise suggested that voice recognition devices could teach children to be rude and demanding, and that “the dividing line between the person 39; digital and a real human being may not be clear to children. . "
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Some parents have struggled to find the right tone.
"It really made me think of people versus inanimate objects versus pets versus simulated intelligence," says Deidré McLaren, a 4-year-old mother in Johannesburg, South Africa.
For Cynthia Craigie, mother of three at home on the central California coast, is all the kids hear.
“How do you interact with your wife? How do you interact with the cashier at the convenience store? Do you say "please" and "thank you" or are you on your phone distracted as you walk through the checkout line? These little things, I noticed that my boys pay attention and copy my actions. Manners can be considered a lost art. "
But another father, Tawnya Slater, sees it differently. Observing the ways with these devices is for her, in a word, "strange." “Do you want me to say & # 39; please & # 39; to my electronic device? I must say & # 39; thanks & # 39; to my trash can for accepting my trash? How about asking the freezer to keep my ice cream frozen, ”she shared in a Facebook group discussing the issue.
What makes things more complicated is that "digital assistants have this aura of authority," says Dr. Pamela Rutledge, director of the Center for Media Psychology Research in Newport Beach, California. We may know that they are not human, but to children they "look like adults, know a lot of things and are easy to anthropomorphize." As conversation interfaces and AI evolve further, these distinctions may become even clearer.
"Children learn through repetition, which is why we all say, 'What's the magic word?' Infinite," she says.
"These AI-driven nonhuman entities don't care if you look tired and moody, or if you're purposely rude because it's funny." But interactions of all kinds create patterns of communication and interaction. The more you are used to commanding or intimidating Siri, the more you are used to this pattern of communication, "says Rutledge.
Some parents have reported another problem trying to look friendly and considerate when talking to Alexa and Google – throwing in extra words by shouting a command can confuse these assistants.
Echo Studio delivers high quality sound to an Alexa speaker for $ 199. (Photo: Jefferson Graham)
Dr. Phillips has another concern. The use of "please" and "thank you" may in some sense diminish the meaning of these words.
"When you're talking to very young babies who don't understand it's a machine and want them to hear a gentle involvement with other people, it's logical that we should use manners," says Phillips. "When children are older and we understand that Alexa is not a person, we don't want them to use these words automatically, and we say thank you, sorry and please, because there is a relational play to be used. our communication and our words affect other people. ”
Getting positive reinforcement
Amazon determined that politeness counts when it introduced the Echo Dot Kids Edition last year. When young people ask Alexa to solve a math problem by displaying good manners – "Alexa, please tell me what are 5 plus 7" – the voice inside Echo will not only provide the right answer, but will also add positive reinforcement. : “By the way, thanks for asking so well. "
This “magic word” feature, as Amazon called it, was an apparent response from the company to a loud chorus of customers who were concerned that Alexa's rudely ordering something to send the wrong kind of message, especially for the younger ones. members of the family.
Google released a similar feature "Pretty Please" to Google Assistant last fall after Assistant Product Management Director Lilian Rincon saw her 4-year-old son yelling at ABCs devices and eventually his songs. Disney's favorites.
"I quickly realized that we needed a way to help promote polite behavior – not just for kids, but also for all the people now receiving digital assistants in their homes," she says.
In Iowa City, senior marketing manager Dana Turner says her husband provided another good reason to treat voice assistants well. He "always says" thank you "to her because, he says, one day AI will take over the world and he wants to be saved."
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