"Close, Siri!" "Turn off, Alexa!" We have all heard people tell their voice assistants, often in colorful terms. You've probably done it yourself, and so what? It's not like our voice assistant has feelings – "she" is just a collection of code and a disembodied, robotic voice. Or the conventional thinking goes. I am here to tell you that thinking is wrong, and if you do not want the terminators to chase your grandchildren in a dystopian future, start getting better in Alexa today.
Tech titans take
Okay, I'm joking about the terminators. But the point I make about how we treat her is serious. AI and machine learning are developing rapidly ̵
A few years ago Elon Musk predicted a AI apocalypse at a meeting of the National Governors Association a couple of years ago: "I continue to let the alarm clock, but until people see robots go down the street who kill people, they do not I do not know how to react. "
Maybe Musk overreacts. Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg certainly believed it, joking at Musk's warning by noticing him a "naysayer" and calling such speech "quite irresponsible". But one thing that most of us can agree on is that AI and machine learning are in their childhood right now, and it is difficult to predict how machines will develop. Exciting developments such as the emergence of neural network-based learning suggest that the way machines learn can reflect how animals learn more in the future.
That view is both exciting and scary. Think of two large breed puppies from the same litter. One is raised in a loving home where she is treated with kindness and patience. The other is subjected to a constant stream of verbal abuse and is fired by its owners. The puppies can start with the same potential and confidence, but they will develop into very different dogs, as they are encouraged (or not) in very different environments.
Being Positive Takes Effort
If you are a good pet owner or parent or friend, it may be another nature to give positive reinforcements to your loved ones. But it is not always easy in other situations.
One thing we know about building positive workplace cultures is catching something "doing things right" and promising them because it's more effective than just figuring out the mistakes rather than shouting at an employee for a mistake. But it's not as simple as it sounds. People are problem solvers of nature – we gravitate towards screws and are looking for ways to fix them.
Remaining positive efforts are not just because we have to overcome our tendency to focus on problems, but because we have to admit that "good" comes to varying degrees which requires its own calibrated answers. It's a great job! Then it's almost good enough. The most inspiring leaders seem to find a way to reward the latter, to encourage curiosity and calculated risks, so employees are free to be creative.
" no cavity rule " can transform workplaces into the human space, replacing fear with curiosity. But as digital assistants are integrated into our workplaces, do we not want to ensure that the no asshole rule applies to them as well? If you don't want to work with rude, negative people, you probably don't want to work with a virtual colleague who shows the same qualities. So stop teaching "her" to be a room hole.
A humanity we can be proud of
Still not convinced that the technology we interact with daily can teach us negativity? Think about your Facebook flow. Everyone complains about the irreconcilable stream of negativity they get from their Facebook flow, and there are legitimate questions about how algorithms make up content and their vulnerability to manipulation.
But as much as we know: our flows reflect our interests, measured by clicks. If they are negative, it is because we have taught them that negativity is what we want. Not necessary because we know we "want" it but we certainly look at it much longer, much like the train wreck scenario, you can't stop looking …
I started an experiment with my Facebook feed a few years back . I was sick of all negativity, so I started to ignore those articles and just clicked on positive things instead. I blocked people who wrote negative things and I interacted with uplifting material. It took a while, but slowly my feed began to change. Now that I check on Facebook I get interesting, positive stories that teach me something and / or inspire me instead of anger and anxiety-producing clickbait. It has really transformed the Facebook experience for me.
I think there is a bigger lesson in that story. Everything we do in a connected space is taken and analyzed for future application. So we have choices to make. If Siri proposes a men's clothing store when we ask for "Thai close to me", can we answer with, "Are you f * cking stupid?"? Or we can say "Thank you, but can you tell where the nearest Thai restaurant is is?" How we respond makes a difference, even though Siri is just a collection of code and a disembodied voice.
It is not just answering machines with patience and good manners can help us keep our worst impulses in control when dealing with fellow human beings, but I really believe it is true.
That's how we learn that these machines are more human, we would like them to reflect a humanity that we can be proud of. And, as a possible side benefit, the terminators may not kick down your grandkid's door. It is up to you, but for me, I choose to be fine to her .
Published March 17, 2019 – 07:30 UTC