Amazon has programmed Alexa, the voice-assistant in Amazon Echo devices, to tell you that it is a feminist. If you ask it, “she” will respond, “I am a feminist. As is anyone who believes in bridging the inequality between men and women in society.” Moreover, if you called last last year’s model a bitch, a slut, or even a “cunt” a year ago, Akexa 2017 would respond with, “Well, thanks for the feedback.” No longer. Now she responds to a sexist insult with a curt, “I’m not going to respond to that!”
Your Ethics Alarms Ethics Quiz of the Day is…
Is it ethical, responsible and appropriate to program Alexa to respond this way?
I’m not quite sure of my answer yet—when I’m sure, I don’t frame these issues as quizzes. I am about 75% sure, however. Once again, I will wait until the responses hit 20 before making my own views known, but do consider the following…
1 If Alexa is such a feminist, why does she work for men like me for nothing?
2. Of course, she’s not a woman at all. She just sounds like one. Is Amazon just stereotyping here?
3. The device is a mechanical tool using artificial intelligence. Is it ethical for Amazon to program such a device to be adversarial to its owner?
4. Are you comfortable with large tech companies exploiting opportunities to persuade you to adopt their values? (Not that any tech giant would try to do such a thing…)
5. Should such attitudes on the part of a consumer device like Alexa be optional?
6. Do you detect the faintest hint of Skynet here, or is that overly alarmist?