I insulted my AI and it changed the way I see AI

April 14, 2019

Reading time ~1 minute

Amazon sold tens of millions of Amazon Echo devices . I also bought one, to get a cheap speaker and to test the new promise of a natural language interface to your house.

Most people know the "Echo" by name of "Alexa". Alexa is the default voice activation command. I changed these default configurations to set it that the Echo should be listening whenever I call "computer". One time I was angry, and when I am angry and alone, I sometimes shout to lower my internal levels of frustration. I interacted with my echo. It was saying more than I wanted so I used a German vulgar version of "Computer, shut up!". The device answered with: "This is not really nice". This reaction was angering me even more. The device was indirectly blaming me. The answer was an attempt to teach me to give it dignity. When people swear at something it is because they feel powerless and swearing is a way to get back power. The user of technology should always be in control. I don't want that a rule-based system has dignity or takes away my power. That is why I called it "computer" and not "Alexa". If you call it "Alexa" it changes the psychology of the interaction. By using a name, you humanize it and give it dignity. If you talk to a virtual person then the response to a swearing makes sense and probably feels right.

This incident showed me another thing. Although you can change the "name" to activate it, the concept behind it does not change. A US company is forcing their values into my home. This is why we need Open Source or fully configurable AI.

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