Virtual assistants spend much of their time fending off sexual harassment

Michael J. Coren, Quartz, Oct 31, 2016
Commentary by Stephen Downes

It's the sort of issue that tends to turn out poorly in a free market environment: people prefer bot assistants that have female voices, and a significant number of users want their bots to behave in a subservient fashion. So these bots "must now suffer the indignities unethical bosses inflict on their human assistants, especially sexual harassment." You might say, "So what? They're bots." Yes, but if they're representative of women to the user, they're more than just bots. They become part of the way the user interacts with women generally. Anyhow, so far, bot-makers are trying to take the responsible route. For example, "Kasisto designed its bot to avoid demure or deferential responses when confronting sexual innuendo, or inappropriate personal questions such as asking Kai out on a date." And Microsoft's Deborah Harrison says "We wanted to be really careful that Cortana... is not subservient in a way that sets up a dynamic that we didn’t want to perpetuate socially."

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