Amazon Alexa Now Claps Back When Someone Says Something Sexist to Her
Behold the world's first feminist AI device.
Movements like #MeToo and subsequent campaigns like #TimesUp have been sweeping the nation. On top of just having a major impact on red carpets, the need to champion gender equality and end sexual violence is making its way to the tech we use too. Case in point: Amazon's move to reprogram Alexa to stand up for herself against sexist language.
Before this update, Alexa embodied female subservience. If you called her a "bitch" or a "slut," she'd say something like "Well, thanks for the feedback." And if you called her "hot" she'd respond with "That's nice of you to say." As Quartz reports, this perpetuated the idea that women in service roles are supposed to sit back and take everything you say to them. (Related: This New Survey Highlights the Prevalence of Workplace Sexual Harassment)
Not anymore. Late last year, 17,000 people signed a petition on Care 2 asking the tech giant to "reprogram their bots to push back against sexual harassment." "In this #MeToo moment, where sexual harassment may finally be being taken seriously by society, we have a unique opportunity to develop AI in a way that creates a kinder world," they wrote in the petition.
Turns out, Amazon had already taken matters into their own hands last spring, updating Alexa to be more of a feminist. Now, according to Quartz, the AI has what they call a "disengage mode" and responds to sexually explicit questions with "I'm not going to respond to that," or "I'm not sure what outcome you expected." Amazon never publicly announced this update.
While this might seem like a small step, we're all about the message that sexist language shouldn't be tolerated.