The anthropomorphism of technology


Good night Alexa… Good night! That is what my kiddo like to say to Alexa every so often. For her, it’s just a cool device that can help her with the homework, (Alexa, how do you spell awesome… A W E S O M E) or to play her favorite music while she dances around the kitchen while we cook dinner. But what still amaze me is that she treats Alexa as if she is her buddy, a person, or something that exists in the real-world way inside the black plastic cylinder in the kitchen corner. But me, well, I do accept that from time to time I lose my coolness when Alexa does not play the music that I requested or does not fully do what I ask her to do and with that, my tone of voice / patience starts changing drastically every extra request that I need to say and she does not get me.

Funny thing to mention, but one thing that you could have noticed so far, is that I refer to my Echo (Internet of Things personal assistant) as she, like if she is a her, when I should probably refer to Alexa as an it, a static piece of plastic that is just an extremely cool voice interface between the internet and the real life, but I can’t, since for us, Alexa is part of the family.

Alexa, set a 15 minutes timer..

Alexa, play my 80’s music playlist..

Alexa, remind me to write a blog entry about you..

Alexa, thank you!.

Just last week I heard a discussion regarding if the kids are becoming ruder because the way they interact with a digital assistant, at the end, they don’t understand any manners (yet) or change their answer if you use the magic word when requesting something, they are just a collection of bits and bytes that lack the magic of human emotion and empathy.

But I like to think that the values that we pass to our children will be replicated to the not so distant future where they will be interacting with a machine the same way that they currently interact with a human being.

As they say, you can learn a lot about people just by looking at how they treat a waiter on a restaurant. But the question is, do we need to interact the same way with a machine as with a person? If you ask me, yes! Why? Because our kids learn from our example, on how we interact with other people, animals and now, devices!

And for the record, I don’t believe that Google or Amazon AI will take control of the planet, but I think that we need to start thinking that a new kind of species is going to be part of our not so future life, and we need to learn to live, interact and in some way, respect them.

Ps: The magic word was “Please”


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