Are You a Nice Person

My daughter interacts with Siri (Apple’s voice controlled personal assistant) every day. As soon as she gets up, she asks, “Siri, what’s the weather going to be like in Mississauga today?” In a split second, Siri shows the data for Mississauga, the highs, the lows, the sunshine, or not. My daughter, 7, never says please or thank you. I’m not the only parent concerned about this. It’s one of the concerns in the broad field of robot ethics. Some parents wonder if their kids are learning manners the way they are supposed to and is there a link between manners to humans and manners with robots (called Chatbots)?

The other day there was a CBC radio broadcast on just this topic. How we interact with robots may reveal how nice we are as people. Now robots don’t have feelings the way we do, but chatbots are being designed to appear to have feelings. If we’re rude to a chatbot called Poncho, he will ask us to apologize and if we’re still rude, he’ll give the silent treatment for 24 hours. In our very near future many more chatbots are coming (to Facebook, Google, Amazon and Microsoft), and we are going to interact with them every day to do things like pay bills and buy things. Just as it is with human interaction, we might get better service if we’re nice. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. So if someone is really unkind to their chatbot, maybe they may not be such a nice person. It’s  a bit like when my mother told me, watch how a guy treats his mother. That’s a sure indication of how he’ll treat you. So watch how you treat your chatbot coming to you soon if you don’t already use Siri. It might be an indication of how nice you really are.

During my research for this blog, I discovered so much more about Siri. We had one misunderstanding where she mispronounced my name but she fixed that for me. I had no idea she could remind me of important appointments which I sometimes miss even when they are on my wall calendar, phone calendar, and written on a small piece of scrap paper in my handbag. Maybe I’ll never miss an appointment again. For this simple thing, I’ll be eternally grateful. That’s worth a please and a thank you to Siri for sure.