Nicole Brodeur started her column “Fighting sexism at work with a podcast” with the lead-in, “First of all, stop referring to Amazon’s Alexa as ‘she.’ Alexa is not a woman. Alexa is a robot.’ ”
I recently visited a highly educated couple with young children. After listening to each of them give commands to Alexa, I commented, “You’re not speaking very nicely to Alexa. Additionally, you should say please and thank you.” Their expected response was, “You know she’s not real, don’t you?”
My reply shocked them. They, and others to whom I’ve relayed the story, agreed they need to improve their attitude and tone of voice, as well as speak politely to Alexa.
Here’s what I said: “Alexa may not be real, but your children don’t know that. By your example, you’re teaching your son it’s OK to speak impolitely, harshly and condescendingly to a woman. At the same time, your daughter is learning a woman should respond to such demands promptly, politely and without even changing her cheerful tone of voice, let alone questioning the command.”
Human interaction with artificial intelligence is in its infancy. We need to be thoughtful and kind, rather than dismissive, as we approach the subject.
David Lee Williams, Bothell