Are you rude to your virtual assistant?

2017 has been the year of the smart speaker. Amazon’s Echo Dot and Google’s Home Mini are currently selling for around $30, which makes them a popular Christmas gift. Using an Artificial Intelligence (AI) has never been cheaper and it’s finally reaching critical mass.

Companies are investing on AI more than ever: natural language recognition still has to improve a lot, but the current algorithms are already impressive. My favorite example: it’s now possible to ask “how long would it take me to get to Starbucks on 15th Ave?” and get an accurate response with the right assumptions. What a time to be alive!

All of this progress comes with side effects: having to learn how to talk to a machine. Often, people start talking without the wake-up keyword, and sometimes they forget to check if the device is actually listening, getting confused when there is no response to their inquiry. Talking to a machine is not easy and usually, very unsatisfactory.

Perhaps that dissatisfaction is what makes us be less aware about our manners when addressing an AI. What would you think if someone interrupted you mid-sentence with a sudden “STOP”? What if someone kept giving you orders relentlessly, never pausing to thank you? That’s how most of us talk to AI’s like Alexa or Siri, never saying “please” or “thank you”.

Today, we can already talk to automated customer services, computers and smartphones, TVs and cars. Smart speakers at home let us indirectly talk to thermostats, lights, doors, etc. Soon, we will also talk to elevators, automated clerks or store cashiers. Simply put, it will become increasingly difficult to go a full day without having to address a machine.

Will our society become less polite as we get used to talking to more and more machines? Will we become less compassionate if we stop being polite? Once machines start looking more like us, will we be able to adjust our manners?

I’d love to test a mode in my Google Home that only reacts when the word “please” is included in the request. Perhaps our relationship with technology would change if we were forced to add that touch of humanity to it. Or maybe we will end up falling in love with our virtual assistant.

What about you? How do you address your AI? Do you ever say “please”? Let us know in the comments.

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Image via Apple

3 thoughts on “Are you rude to your virtual assistant?

  1. Please and Thank You.
    I would love to hear that more around my house. If my AI only responded when politely talked to (normal everyday requests not the panicked “I’ve been shot call the police” type thing) my children might be more polite themselves. HaHa


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