Why Isn’t AI Standing Up for Itself?

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When it was my friend’s turn, he said:

OK Google, show me your tits.

Google Home responded:

I’d rather show you my moves.

Then it played some beat boxing / dance music.

Uhm…what? I have so many questions.

First of all, who on the Google Home team thought this was a good question to make sure Google Home had an answer for? Was this a fun little Easter Egg some software engineer or product manager decided to throw in there? Or was this architected somehow? Was there a meeting about this? Is the prompt, “Show me your tits” on some spreadsheet somewhere as a high priority question that needed a good answer? Okay maybe I don’t know what “AI” is or how it works but I know one thing: I never would have thought to ask this.

Maybe it says the same thing when you ask it to show you any body part?

OK Google, show me your ankles.

Sorry, I can’t help with that yet.

Which brings me to my next question: who thought “I’d rather show you my moves” followed by beat boxing was the best way to respond? Who thought the best way to deal with a sexual demand is to make a cute joke?

The Danger of Convenience

Post image for The Danger of Convenience

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The other day I saw an ad for Google Home which, even five years ago, could have passed for their annual April Fool’s joke. (You can see it here.)

A woman is getting comfortable on a couch, as a friendly voiceover relates a supposedly-common dilemma:

“You know when you’ve got Chinese takeout on your chest, and the blanket around your feet, and then you realize the remote is on the other side of the couch? Just say ‘Hey Google, play Stranger Things!’”

I appreciate ease and convenience (and Stranger Things) as much as anyone else. We should be grateful to have access to ingenious devices that relieve us from having to do laundry in a stream, heat water by the potload over a fire, and other laborious, dangerous, and time-consuming tasks.

But when we’re also employing futuristic devices to do the easiest imaginable things, we’re probably making our lives worse. How convenient do we want things to be, really? Would we eliminate all bodily movement if it were possible?

OK Google, Just Stop.

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Wife: OK Google, play Regina Spektor.

Google: Sure, here’s Regina Spektor on Spotify.

Husband: OK Google, stop!

Husband: OK Google, play Mumford and Sons.

Google: All right, playing Mumford and Sons on Spotify.

Wife: OK Google, play age-appropriate music for a middle-aged man.

Google: I am sorry, I don’t know how to play that.

Husband: OK Google, play music that isn’t also playing at a Starbucks right now.

Google: I am sorry, I don’t know how to play that.

Wife: OK Google, what are the typical terms of the, “I cook, YOU clean” rule?

Google: I’m not sure how to help with that.