Alexa: The difficult fate of a female AI

It’s not easy to be Alexa. On the occasion of International Women’s Day, we would like to talk about Alexa and how you deal with gender equality and womanhood.

Alexa is always ready to answer all your questions. Amazon uses a huge network for this, which provides you with answers to your questions and solutions to your problems. But there is so much more to Alexa than just intelligence and technology that make it a useful AI assistant.

Overall, around work at Amazon . 000 People to Alexa.

One part naturally focuses on the technical aspects of Alexa. For example, one of the teams only takes care of machine learning and annotates data to improve the statistical models of the AI ​​- so they help Alexa get better and better over time. There is also a dedicated team for Alexa’s question-and-answer function.

“We have a team that constantly supplies the knowledge database with new questions and answers, thereby expanding the so-called knowledge graph.” , says Steve Rabuchin, Vice President of Amazon Alexa . “There are a lot of people involved in this task. We want to be able to answer every question Alexa is asked and have made many improvements in that regard. Every day thousands of people ensure that she becomes smarter. “

In addition to the technical aspects of Alexa, there is a team that is exclusively dedicated to their personality.

This personality team is extremely diverse and the team members come from a wide variety of areas such as entertainment, journalism and music. Together they are responsible for the design of Alexa’s conversation interactions.

You determine what personality Alexa has.

In contrast to the more gender-neutral Google Assistant, Alexa is female and has female traits. Since the gender of the AI ​​plays a key role, the team needs to investigate how these character traits affect Alexa’s responses.

In a conversation with Refinery 29 Heather Zorn, the engagement team leader at Amazon Alexa, revealed that working on Alexa’s personality is far more detailed than most people think. For example, many personality team members refer to Alexa as “she” rather than “it”. The team is convinced that it is impossible for a technology that is able to speak to be an “it”.

When asked how Alexa should respond to a pizza order, it is relatively easy to find an answer . But how should she react to insults or inappropriate sexual remarks?

Unfortunately, there are some things that cannot be avoided in funny ways. In the case of verbal abuse, the answer is relatively clear. But what about remarks whose meaning is not so clear? Because AI is still not able to recognize context and tone of voice.

For example, if a seven-year-old told Alexa that she was pretty, most people would think that’s pretty cute. But if a grown man made that remark, possibly in an uncomfortable tone, the opinion would most likely be different. Ultimately, the team decided that Alexa would take the statement “You are pretty!” As a compliment and respond with “Thank you!”

If there is artificial intelligence in ours If you want to talk to us in your own four walls, the people behind this technology have to decide what happens when the AI ​​gets a tough question. For example, what would Alexa say to a woman who told her that she was sexually abused?

In this case, Amazon asked crisis advisors. Alexa’s response is a mixture of compassion (“I’m sorry this happened to you”) and help (she’ll give you a help line number).

It’s not easy To think about what kind of woman Alexa is and how she should deal with questions with which we as humans define the limits of the moral. The focus of the #MeToo movement, for example, is taking stock and defining how our society is positioned on certain problems. How Alexa feels about the #MeToo movement is not yet entirely clear; but there is a team trying to find an answer to this question.

At this point we need to think about how we can teach artificial intelligence to empathize.

Artificial intelligences learn what we teach them and show them – for example, data and decision-making processes that we make available to them. Before we ask the question of whether or not machines will ever be capable of real empathy, I want to say one thing:

To believe that artificial intelligences will be just like the human being is the false grail of the AI ​​industry.

So maybe it’s not about making Alexa a feminist for the masses – but rather one Companion who enables us to achieve more than we could do on our own.

This may be a good time to remind you that these hopeful prospects for future relationships between human and Machine will be financed by the online shopping group Amazon.

But on International Women’s Day, I would like to raise my glass and toast to Alexa, who takes stock of what an appropriate response will look like after #MeToo . As a woman, she is probably stronger than me because she tackles problems that help us see our society more clearly.

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