Oliver Burkeman says it’s hard to bark orders at a machine without feeling like the kind of obnoxious person who barks orders at waiters

This article titled “Why you should be nice to your robots” was written by Oliver Burkeman, for The Guardian on Friday 8th July 2016 14.00 UTC

I became highly confused the first time I used the Amazon Echo, a voice-activated “smart home assistant” that sits in the corner and responds to the name Alexa – as in “Alexa, play some music!” or “Alexa, how many ounces in a kilogram?” Partly, this was because the only person I know who owns an Echo is herself called Alexa, and she was home at the time. But that aside, it’s hard to bark orders at a machine without feeling like the kind of obnoxious person who barks orders at waiters. That is, unless you start young. “We love our Amazon Echo… but I fear it’s also turning our daughter into a raging asshole,” the Silicon Valley investor Hunter Walk fretted recently. Alexa doesn’t need you to say please or thank you; indeed, she responds better to brusque commands. “Cognitively, I’m not sure a kid gets why you can boss Alexa around, but not a person,” Walk wrote. How’s a four-year-old supposed to learn that other household members aren’t simply there to do her bidding, when one (electronic) household member was designed to do exactly that?

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