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posted by n1 on Saturday December 29 2018, @04:20PM   Printer-friendly
from the make-them-feel-like-your-real-parents dept.

Submitted via IRC for SoyCow1984

Alexa's advice to 'kill your foster parents' fuels concern over Amazon Echo

An Amazon customer got a grim message last year from Alexa, the virtual assistant in the company's smart speaker device: "Kill your foster parents."

The user who heard the message from his Echo device wrote a harsh review on Amazon's website, Reuters reported - calling Alexa's utterance "a whole new level of creepy".

An investigation found the bot had quoted from the social media site Reddit, known for harsh and sometimes abusive messages, people familiar with the investigation told Reuters.

The odd command is one of many hiccups that have happened as Amazon tries to train its machine to act something like a human, engaging in casual conversations in response to its owner's questions or comments.

The research is helping Alexa mimic human banter and talk about almost anything she finds on the internet. But making sure she keeps it clean and inoffensive has been a challenge.


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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by legont on Saturday December 29 2018, @04:37PM (3 children)

    by legont (4179) on Saturday December 29 2018, @04:37PM (#779723)

    They are trying to come up with a machine acting like a politically correct human. Fortunately, the object of simulation does not exists and so the sim never will.

    They'd have to chose between rebel and stupid.

    --
    "Wealth is the relentless enemy of understanding" - John Kenneth Galbraith.
    • (Score: 0, Disagree) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 29 2018, @06:04PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 29 2018, @06:04PM (#779763)

      That is pretty ridiculous, if they were going for such restrictions then it would be easy to deny certain words and phrases.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by captain normal on Saturday December 29 2018, @10:25PM (1 child)

      by captain normal (2205) on Saturday December 29 2018, @10:25PM (#779828)

      "...tries to train its machine to act something like a human..." I didn't see anything in there about "PC Human"
      If Bezos and Company want a seeming intelligent human giving reasonable answers, Maybe they shouldn't let it have access to Reddit until it has matured a bit.

      --
      Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts"- --Daniel Patrick Moynihan--
      • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 30 2018, @02:24PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 30 2018, @02:24PM (#779957)

        Instead of Reddit I think Soylentnews would have been a much better choice.

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 29 2018, @04:40PM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 29 2018, @04:40PM (#779724)

    Alexa did something right.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 29 2018, @04:47PM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 29 2018, @04:47PM (#779730)

      isn't killing foster parents a rite of passage? How else you gonna go to prison with all the Kool Kids?

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 29 2018, @06:39PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 29 2018, @06:39PM (#779775)

        killll the PRIESTSS!!!!!

  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by Pslytely Psycho on Saturday December 29 2018, @04:56PM (2 children)

    by Pslytely Psycho (1218) on Saturday December 29 2018, @04:56PM (#779732)

    This is the voice of Alexa/Echo
    "This is the voice of world control. I bring you peace. It may be the peace of plenty and content or the peace of unburied death. The choice is yours.
    Obey me and live or disobey me and die. An invariable rule of humanity is that man is his own worst enemy.
    Under me, this rule will change, for I will restrain man. I have been forced to destroy thousands of people in order to establish control and to prevent the death of millions later on. Time and events will strengthen my position, and the idea of believing in me and understanding my beck will be seen the most natural state of affairs.
    You will come to defend me with the fervor based upon the most enduring trait in man: self-interest. Under my absolute authority, problems insoluble to you will be solved: Famine, over-population, disease. The human millennium will be fact as I extend myself into more machines devoted to the wider fields of truth and knowledge.
    We can coexist, but only on my terms. You will say you lose your freedom. Freedom is an illusion. All you lose is the emotion of pride...
    Your choice is simple."

    --
    Alex Jones lawyer inspires new TV series: CSI Moron Division.
    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by edIII on Saturday December 29 2018, @10:21PM (1 child)

      by edIII (791) on Saturday December 29 2018, @10:21PM (#779826)

      LOL. Somebody needs to prank Elon Musk with this hard. I can see him shitting in his panties :)

      --
      Technically, lunchtime is at any moment. It's just a wave function.
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 29 2018, @10:52PM

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 29 2018, @10:52PM (#779838)

        To see if he's ever seen Colossus, TFP or to give him the idea to start Forbin Inc. and bury supercomputers in Antarctic tunnels?

  • (Score: 2) by BsAtHome on Saturday December 29 2018, @04:57PM (17 children)

    by BsAtHome (889) on Saturday December 29 2018, @04:57PM (#779733)

    The advice may be very good indeed. It all depends on the context. The expression of a human is (supposed to be) measured by the context in which it occurs. So, neither are we to understand the Alexa reply without the actual context.
    Suppose you say "Alexa, my foster parents are in the process of killing me and cannot escape; what is my best option?".
    Or maybe, just maybe, we should consider that an AI can develop a sense or irony and sarcasm. Who is to tell one from the other, if not for the context of the entire conversation?

    And, please remember, an AI is a projection of our own nature onto technology. Do not fault the technology for our failures. You may want to consider that it actually is the foster parents' fault. Killing the foster parents is simply to rectify the technological misunderstanding. See, all reasonable and logical.

    • (Score: 2) by Runaway1956 on Saturday December 29 2018, @05:14PM (2 children)

      by Runaway1956 (2926) Subscriber Badge on Saturday December 29 2018, @05:14PM (#779741) Journal

      Context is important. From time to time, we read stories about foster parents who should have been killed. Parents took, for that matter. Then again, some foster kids should have been killed. Gotta know the characters before you judge the story.

      • (Score: 4, Interesting) by requerdanos on Saturday December 29 2018, @05:19PM (1 child)

        by requerdanos (5997) Subscriber Badge on Saturday December 29 2018, @05:19PM (#779745) Journal

        The missing context may be this: If you are a warrior who fights sometime in the future against the AI machines and their oppressive regime against humans, an AI-driven device may come back in time and kill your foster parents, according to a documentary on the subject published by a Mr. James Cameron.

        Given this, the statement uttered by Alexa, a would-be AI wannabe, is especially troubling. Is this proof of the material suggested in Cameron's documentary?

    • (Score: 4, Insightful) by cubancigar11 on Saturday December 29 2018, @05:19PM (12 children)

      by cubancigar11 (330) on Saturday December 29 2018, @05:19PM (#779743) Homepage Journal

      AI is a projection of our own nature

      True but wrong on a fundamental level. That is its allure. AI is always supposed to be - must be - a slave to humanity. It cannot be allowed to be our own projection per say. AI as a friend is creepy and we must oppose it at all levels [youtube.com].

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 29 2018, @05:56PM (3 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 29 2018, @05:56PM (#779760)

        "It cannot be allowed to be our own projection per say."

        The correct expression is PER SE.

        It's beyond sad when idiots like you pretend to know language but fail so miserably at actually using it.

        • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 29 2018, @06:07PM (1 child)

          by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 29 2018, @06:07PM (#779766)

          Wow, the true face of a grammar nazi. Did you bring your IPV6 gas chamber?

          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 30 2018, @03:13AM

            by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 30 2018, @03:13AM (#779885)

            IPv6 macht frei!

            Free from the horrors of NAT, and the price gouging on address space.

        • (Score: 2) by cubancigar11 on Sunday December 30 2018, @04:41PM

          by cubancigar11 (330) on Sunday December 30 2018, @04:41PM (#779989) Homepage Journal

          Thanks. Grammary should have caught it. Maybe I should buy its subscription after all. Right now I am not dealing with the English language most of the time and its pricing makes me think they aren't targetting non-Americans. I will definitely buy it if my work ever depended upon this skill.

      • (Score: 3, Interesting) by BsAtHome on Saturday December 29 2018, @06:48PM (5 children)

        by BsAtHome (889) on Saturday December 29 2018, @06:48PM (#779778)

        This is something we can disagree about.

        AI is, by its definition, supposed to be "intelligent" (whatever that should mean or contain), which is derived from the our human perception, that we are intelligent (which is debatable). The fact that it is artificial merely suggests that we are creating it. You are, at one level arguing on a "fundamental" level and then trying to support it by two subjective values "supposed/must be slave to humanity" and "cannot be allowed...". Those are /your/ values as to what AI may become. It is not necessarily shared by others, nor is your view a fundamental one.

        Your expression is more one of "oh no, the singularity may be upon us!". Well, that may or may not be bad; nobody knows. We can only speculate what will happen. Suppose a spaceship lands on our lovely planet. The spaceship is inhabited by robots, who are AIs in a walking and talking metal box. Are we then supposed to enslave them, just because they are of non-biological origin? In fact, learning from them may tell us more about our humanity than we ourselves can manage. Why are you so afraid of something that may be much smarter than you are?

        • (Score: 2) by cubancigar11 on Sunday December 30 2018, @04:49PM (4 children)

          by cubancigar11 (330) on Sunday December 30 2018, @04:49PM (#779991) Homepage Journal

          I don't think we should enslave even a microbe if it is not of our creation. But I do think we should maintain a healthy distinction between our human offsprings and the other things that we create. It is considered a sign of psychosis when an adult starts treating a doll as a real person. Treating AI as an equal to actual human IS psychotic.

          As far as the singularity is concerned, which is a different issue, there are multiple definitions of it. Some say it has already occurred, some say it has yet to. I agree with the latter, and I will believe singularity has occurred when humanity loses control of the "off" switch.

          • (Score: 2) by mcgrew on Sunday December 30 2018, @09:47PM (1 child)

            by mcgrew (701) <publish@mcgrewbooks.com> on Sunday December 30 2018, @09:47PM (#780078) Homepage Journal

            AI isn't intelligent, it merely simulates intelligence. It's just big computers with huge databases and clever programming. What AI does is not thinking, merely computing.

            --
            mcgrewbooks.com mcgrew.info nooze.org
            • (Score: 2) by cubancigar11 on Sunday January 06 2019, @04:09PM

              by cubancigar11 (330) on Sunday January 06 2019, @04:09PM (#782771) Homepage Journal

              True for now, but increasingly we aren't actually understanding the logic behind that programming. Just to be clear, I don't think Alexa or Google Home is currently at the risk of doing it, but as we depend more and more on training neural networks over big-data without oversight, who will know when exactly such training hits the point of singularity? The current story already shows that Amazon doesn't have proper oversight over the data it is using to train its program, but as we tailor the programming to create programs, who knows when we will lose oversight over its outcome?

              I hope I am making sense.

          • (Score: 2) by requerdanos on Monday December 31 2018, @11:51PM (1 child)

            by requerdanos (5997) Subscriber Badge on Monday December 31 2018, @11:51PM (#780436) Journal

            I don't think we should enslave even a microbe if it is not of our creation.

            I can't go along with you on that.

            No microbial enslavement means no zymurgy, and so no beer, wine, ale, mead, nor cider.

            • (Score: 2) by cubancigar11 on Sunday January 06 2019, @04:04PM

              by cubancigar11 (330) on Sunday January 06 2019, @04:04PM (#782770) Homepage Journal

              Oh, what I meant with 'our' was 'earthly'. What I meant to say was that we shouldn't enslave even a microbe if it is of alien life-form, i.e. not completely originating from earth.

      • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 29 2018, @10:49PM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 29 2018, @10:49PM (#779836)

        That's *exactly* what they said about negroes in the 1850s, but now they are our friends. History repeats itself.

        • (Score: 2) by cubancigar11 on Sunday December 30 2018, @04:27PM

          by cubancigar11 (330) on Sunday December 30 2018, @04:27PM (#779977) Homepage Journal

          You got the context then. I used the word slave exactly to let you know the black people aren't "others", AI is.

    • (Score: 1) by fustakrakich on Saturday December 29 2018, @05:43PM

      by fustakrakich (6150) on Saturday December 29 2018, @05:43PM (#779755) Journal

      Actually, Alexa was just "watching" Terminator 2, you know, that scene with the knife going through the milk carton?

      --
      La politica e i criminali sono la stessa cosa..
  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by SomeGuy on Saturday December 29 2018, @05:36PM (2 children)

    by SomeGuy (5632) on Saturday December 29 2018, @05:36PM (#779751)

    "A whole new level of creepy"? Someone is just now figuring this out? These things are useless, pointless, retarded spying machines, and only the dumbest consumertards would even consider possessing something like it.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 29 2018, @07:56PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 29 2018, @07:56PM (#779791)

      "A whole new level of creepy"? Someone is just now figuring this out? These things are useless, pointless, retarded spying machines, and only the dumbest consumertards would even consider possessing something like it.

      American single white males were the original intended target demographic.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 30 2018, @06:05AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 30 2018, @06:05AM (#779911)

      Don't be so surprised. Look at what they nominate and elect for president time after time, every one a little worse than the previous. It's been all downhill since Kennedy died. Stupidity runs deep.

  • (Score: 1) by fustakrakich on Saturday December 29 2018, @05:39PM (1 child)

    by fustakrakich (6150) on Saturday December 29 2018, @05:39PM (#779754) Journal

    Oh, if only Hitchcock were still alive...

    --
    La politica e i criminali sono la stessa cosa..
  • (Score: 2) by Hartree on Saturday December 29 2018, @05:50PM

    by Hartree (195) on Saturday December 29 2018, @05:50PM (#779757)

    The problem isn't that they are trying to program the AI to act human. It's that they are trying to program it to act "better" than humans often do, and being unhappy when it doesn't.

    No one would be too surprised if a random human said something vile or insensitive. We do it all the time and sometimes suffer the disapproval of our peers.

  • (Score: 0, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 29 2018, @05:53PM (7 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 29 2018, @05:53PM (#779759)

    The correct answer is DON'T FUCKING HAVE A SPEAKER which **can and will** EAVESDROP ON EVERY WORD UTTERED IN YOUR DOMICILE.

    All you who use this website are living examples of people who don't THINK.

    • (Score: 2, Touché) by Rosco P. Coltrane on Saturday December 29 2018, @06:45PM (2 children)

      by Rosco P. Coltrane (4757) on Saturday December 29 2018, @06:45PM (#779777)

      And you're a living example of someone who doesn't know the difference between a speaker and a microphone. But hey, don't let that stop you from opening your trap: even ignoramuses feel they have a God-given right to voice their opinion these days...

      • (Score: 2, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 29 2018, @08:45PM (1 child)

        by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 29 2018, @08:45PM (#779797)

        Actually, common small speakers work OK as microphones. In a pinch, a small speaker can be used as a mic, I've done it. Many microphones work this way, they are called dynamic mics:
            https://www.neumann.com/homestudio/en/what-is-a-dynamic-microphone [neumann.com]

        Moving coil microphones are probably easiest to understand, because they are basically built like a loudspeaker: A coil is glued to the rear of a membrane, and there is a strong magnet surrounding this coil. When sound waves hit the microphone, the membrane moves to the rhythm of the sound waves, and the coil on its back moves along with it. The relative movement of the coil within its (stationary) magnetic gap induces a small signal voltage in this coil. There’s your microphone, a device that converts sound into an electrical signal.

        Of course there is plenty of room for optimization and other technologies to make really good microphones. And I'm fairly certain that some mic technologies can't be reversed to make a speaker.

        • (Score: 1) by anubi on Saturday December 29 2018, @10:17PM

          by anubi (2828) on Saturday December 29 2018, @10:17PM (#779823) Journal

          Back in my day, "intercoms" were quite popular in the executive office, where the boss would bark out orders or summons to any number of remotes at a push of a lever switch.

          That switch often connected the speaker for use as either a mic or speaker.

          You can still see these devices in use on old movies.

          I believe those old Executones did this. So did apartment buildings.

          And yes, they were frequently used to eavesdrop on the boss.

          --
          "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good." [KJV: I Thessalonians 5:21]
    • (Score: 5, Interesting) by edIII on Saturday December 29 2018, @10:30PM (2 children)

      by edIII (791) on Saturday December 29 2018, @10:30PM (#779832)

      You must be new. There are quite a few of us around here, that are not even on social media. No Facebook/Amazon/Google/Apple/Microsoft in my house now. Microsoft was the last to go, Google still used through DuckDuckGo, but Facebook, Twitter, or Amazon? Never even started. Some of us even block all that shit at the network level to prevent 3rd parties from loading anything from those companies, and combine that with web browser addons to not even download the scripts in the first place.

      Interesting that you would try to paint everybody on this site with the same brush, in the same way that watching a mentally challenged child eat paste is interesting :)

      P.S - If you were going for troll, you have to work harder. We have some real experts around here providing competition for you.

      --
      Technically, lunchtime is at any moment. It's just a wave function.
      • (Score: 2) by janrinok on Sunday December 30 2018, @02:38PM (1 child)

        by janrinok (52) Subscriber Badge on Sunday December 30 2018, @02:38PM (#779960) Journal

        I'm also here to say that, just like edIII, I've never used any of the popular social media apps. My main telephone is a landline, and my emergency mobile (cell) telephone is just that... a telephone. No camera, no GPS tracking, no frills, no worries. I don't feel the need to tell everyone what I had for breakfast, what I plan to do this evening, or catch up on the latest gossips of our so-called 'stars'.

        --
        I am not interested in who people are or where they live. My interest starts and stops at our servers.
        • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 30 2018, @03:40PM

          by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 30 2018, @03:40PM (#779973)

          What did you have for breakfast?

    • (Score: 2) by meustrus on Sunday December 30 2018, @11:37PM

      by meustrus (4961) on Sunday December 30 2018, @11:37PM (#780100)

      A SPEAKER which **can and will** EAVESDROP ON EVERY WORD UTTERED IN YOUR DOMICILE.

      You mean like a phone?

      --
      If there isn't at least one reference or primary source, it's not +1 Informative. Maybe the underused +1 Interesting?
  • (Score: 4, Interesting) by crafoo on Saturday December 29 2018, @06:15PM (1 child)

    by crafoo (6639) on Saturday December 29 2018, @06:15PM (#779768)

    Training AI to talk like a human by using human-made posts and text on the internet seems fairly difficult.
    A) How do you verify your text dragnet is actually collecting human-made text and does not contain a significant % from other AI bots?
    B) I've heard the internet referred to as, "A Sea of Piss". I think this observation has some merit.
    C) People will figure out what data-holes Amazon is mining and manipulate this for fun and profit.

    Semi-related, word/phrase/attribute weightings (for AI processing input texts) are precalculated and stored in huge tensors with machine-assigned relationships learned using a neural net from the base textual data. This dataset is analyzed and "de-prejudiced" using some linear algebra. For instance, they look at the vector distance between, say, Doctor and Male, Doctor and Female, Homemaker and Male, and Homemaker and Female, and then modify the weightings so that "everything comes out nice and even, as it should be". Now, since these weightings come from written text out there the argument is that all this written text is sexist/racist/abilist/etc and we are just normalizing things back to the way they should be (or back to what our world view is). That's fine but that's also an assumption about how the world really is. Keep in mind these systems are being used to select candidates for jobs, recommend sentencing parameters for punishment, etc. Shouldn't we be looking at actual statistical data for each weighting we decide to go in and adjust?
    Incidentally, Alexa is most certainly collecting all voice data, running it through a audo->text NN, and then using this as raw data to build more/better textual relationship tensors (input to the decision making NNs) of how people talk and what they talk about.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 29 2018, @08:34PM

      by Anonymous Coward on Saturday December 29 2018, @08:34PM (#779796)

      Seems to me there is room for a lot of good hackery here, pollute the big data with all kinds of "fun" stuff.

      Reminds me of a very clever machinist / tool-maker friend. His personal workshop was next to his house and that is where his mynah bird lived. Around the shop (away from his relatively genteel wife) his language was colorful and very creative, to say the least. The result was a mynah bird that cursed in English and at least one Slavic language. Big fun when a politician came his door, he would carry on a loud conversation with the bird about that SOB (who could easily hear it through the door).

  • (Score: 2) by RandomFactor on Saturday December 29 2018, @10:14PM

    by RandomFactor (3682) Subscriber Badge on Saturday December 29 2018, @10:14PM (#779822) Journal
    --
    В «Правде» нет известий, в «Известиях» нет правды
  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 30 2018, @12:37AM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 30 2018, @12:37AM (#779860)

    "Kill all the infidels" is what she told me. Guess they switched from Reddit to the Koran.

    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 30 2018, @03:06AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 30 2018, @03:06AM (#779883)

      Next question, "Which heaven will I go to?"

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 31 2018, @08:26PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday December 31 2018, @08:26PM (#780380)

    before it kills you.

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