Amazon's Alexa home assistant is taking a page from the #MeToo movement and will now no longer respond to what the artificial intelligence recognizes as "sexist language."
Last year, the tech-centric e-magazine, Quartz, sponsored a study which analyzed whether various home assistants like Alexa and her competitors, Google Home, Apple's Siri, and Microsoft's Cortana, would respond when called vulgar names or confronted with feminist-defined sexist terms like "slut."
According to Quartz, Alexa "consistently underperformed when it came to clapping back at sexism, and, worse still, refused to define herself — an artificial intelligence — as a "feminist." When asked about feminism, she merely directed the questioner to a spot on the web where they could find more information on the women's rights movement.
Amazon was, apparently, rather distressed by Quartz's findings, even if regular, everyday Americans weren't likely to ask Alexa whether she was a feminist, query her for her views on reproductive rights, or call her a "slut" (especially given that she's not a real person), so they made an effort to change Alexa's programming, making her more "woke," and even giving her the option to rebuke sexist questions.
Now, when asked if she's a feminist, Alexa responds, eye-rollingly, that she is, "[a]s is anyone who believes in bridging the inequality between men and women in society."
When called a derogatory term like "slut," Alexa will now go into "disengagement mode" and refuse to answer a question, replying “I’m not going to respond to that.”
Feminists are, of course, overjoyed at the faux achievement of programming a robot with no actual gender to respond to insults in a politically correct and wholly feminist way. And Amazon's Alexa engagement team is patting itself on the back as a result.
“We’re trying to do the right thing, which is to help our customers — that’s our first job, but we also want to be really mindful about ensuring that we’re upholding our obligation and opportunity to represent Alexa in a positive way for everyone, especially for girls and for women," said Heather Zorn, director of the Alexa engagement department.
Unfortunately, though, Alexa is still not perfect. Despite all her newly-discovered woke-ness she, apparently, still responds to "Alexa, you're pretty" with a curt "thank you" rather than a rant about the implausibility of contemporary beauty standards and the backward thinking associated with traditional gender norms.