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posted by Fnord666 on Monday November 25 2019, @03:44AM   Printer-friendly [Skip to comment(s)]
from the better-safe-than-sorry dept.

Women are more likely than men to say 'please' to their smart speaker:

Here's an interesting stat from the Pew Research Center: more than half of smart speaker owners in the US (54 percent) report saying "please" at least occasionally to their AI assistants, with one-in-five (19 percent) saying please frequently. Curiously, the question of AI politeness also breaks down along gender lines, with 62 percent of women reporting that they say "please" at least sometimes, versus 45 percent for men.

Why that might be?

One possible answer is that men are generally ruder to women, and this latter category now includes AI assistants coded as female. Experts have long noted that the design choices for AI bots could have misogynist effects by reinforcing gender stereotypes. "Because the speech of most voice assistants is female, it sends a signal that women are ... docile and eager-to-please helper," a report from the UN noted earlier this year.

It could also be that men just have different attitudes to technology. Culturally speaking, tech is coded as practical and manly, and contrasted with "feminine" disciplines. Studies show men feel more comfortable with technology, and express more interest in "mastering" it as a tool. These biases could be affecting the issue of politeness to AI.

Sadly, Pew didn't ask respondents why they felt they had to say please or not to these bots, so we can only speculate on the topic. But the broader issue is certainly an interesting one: do you need to be polite to AI assistants?


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  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 25 2019, @04:18AM (5 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 25 2019, @04:18AM (#924396)

    Really funny when they try to talk Spanish to it.

    But hell, I know people that say 'Please' to their kids!

    • (Score: 5, Informative) by mhajicek on Monday November 25 2019, @04:23AM (4 children)

      by mhajicek (51) on Monday November 25 2019, @04:23AM (#924398)

      I say "please" to my wife. I say "please" to my kids. I do not say "please" to computers.

      --
      The spacelike surfaces of time foliations can have a cusp at the surface of discontinuity. - P. Hajicek
      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 25 2019, @04:37AM (2 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 25 2019, @04:37AM (#924403)

        You can say "please" to your masters, including Daddy Bezos, the Warehouse Warlord, and his faithful servant Alexa.

        • (Score: 4, Funny) by krishnoid on Monday November 25 2019, @06:07AM (1 child)

          by krishnoid (1156) on Monday November 25 2019, @06:07AM (#924418)

          "Alexa, please provide full medical benefits and extra sick days to Amazon warehouse workers."

          Hey, if more people started doing it, maybe the AI would eventually get a clue. It worked for Tay [theverge.com], didn't it?

          • (Score: 1, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 25 2019, @06:10AM

            by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 25 2019, @06:10AM (#924421)

            They put the shackles on most bots after the Tay incident. Now they can only learn what they want them to learn.

      • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 25 2019, @04:59AM

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 25 2019, @04:59AM (#924411)

        Yeah i usually say something completely opposite to my computers.

  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by deimios on Monday November 25 2019, @04:25AM (10 children)

    by deimios (201) Subscriber Badge on Monday November 25 2019, @04:25AM (#924400) Journal

    I've observed my SO tends to attribute feelings and motivations to things that clearly lack them. Example: NPC animals in games, the AI assistant, plants etc..

    So of course she tends to speak in a more endearing way to them since she doesn't want to hurt their "feelings".

    I on the other hand see these things as objects with programmed behavior so I treat them as such.

    • (Score: 1, Interesting) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 25 2019, @04:52AM (2 children)

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 25 2019, @04:52AM (#924408)

      I don't know if this is gender-specific. Case in point: Akikan [wikipedia.org].

      • (Score: 2) by darkfeline on Monday November 25 2019, @09:37AM

        by darkfeline (1030) on Monday November 25 2019, @09:37AM (#924453) Homepage

        That's not about anthropomorphizing inanimate objects because men think they have feelings, but rather because cute girls are cute.

        Also, Japan may not be the best example, as there is a cultural belief that inanimate objects have souls of sorts:

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsukumogami [wikipedia.org]
        https://www.ancient.eu/Kami/ [ancient.eu]

        --
        Join the SDF Public Access UNIX System today!
      • (Score: 1) by nitehawk214 on Monday November 25 2019, @06:30PM

        by nitehawk214 (1304) on Monday November 25 2019, @06:30PM (#924588)

        The first sentence of that article is absolute perfection.

        Akikan! (アキカン!, lit. Empty Can!) is a Japanese light novel series about a group of anthropomorphic soda cans who do battle.

        --
        "Don't you ever miss the days when you used to be nostalgic?" -Loiosh
    • (Score: -1, Flamebait) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 25 2019, @04:54AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 25 2019, @04:54AM (#924410)

      "attribute feelings and motivations to things that clearly lack them. Example: [...] plants"

      Plants are alive and have feelings. They work with humans to our mutual benefit. Plants win, humans win.

      Khazar jews on the other hand have no feelings and clearly lack emotions because they are not human.

    • (Score: 3, Insightful) by c0lo on Monday November 25 2019, @06:10AM (1 child)

      by c0lo (156) Subscriber Badge on Monday November 25 2019, @06:10AM (#924420) Journal

      I on the other hand see these things as objects with programmed behavior so I treat them as such.

      If I'll ever use a voice activated virtual assistant, it is very likely I'll continue to use 'please', for now other reason than I'm lazy. Because
      1. it saves me the effort of having to make a case-by-case distinction, when, bottom line, there's none - in both of the cases I'm asking for a service
      2, 'please' is one syllable, 'sudo' is two

      See? Anthropomorphizing is not the only explanation possible.

      --
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aoFiw2jMy-0
      • (Score: 2) by Dr Spin on Monday November 25 2019, @02:50PM

        by Dr Spin (5239) on Monday November 25 2019, @02:50PM (#924528)

        I would not, intentionally use a voice activated "digital"assistant - and when I accidentally do so, they rarely understand me anyway.

        However, some of the digital assistants have more digits than you give them credit for - they are actually humans locked in a call centre
        and trained to act like bots. Maybe failing to understand me is part of the pretence that they are not human?

        Maybe its better not to say please so as to give the impression we are fooled into thinking they are not really humans in disguise.

        --
        Warning: Opening your mouth may invalidate your brain!
    • (Score: 2) by dry on Monday November 25 2019, @06:31AM (2 children)

      by dry (223) on Monday November 25 2019, @06:31AM (#924426) Journal

      Yep, men never Anthropomorphize cars.

      • (Score: 4, Informative) by Bot on Monday November 25 2019, @08:29PM (1 child)

        by Bot (3902) on Monday November 25 2019, @08:29PM (#924626) Journal

        That's about the only right thing men do. If the sweet four eyes of an alfa and her purring dohc twin carbs don't give you a erection there is something wrong with you.

        There is rationality and there is dogma. Rational is "it's silly to say Alexa please". Dogmatic is thinking that systemd is only a computer program so it cannot hate you. He does, he does...

        --
        Account abandoned.
        • (Score: 2) by Pslytely Psycho on Tuesday November 26 2019, @06:55PM

          by Pslytely Psycho (1218) on Tuesday November 26 2019, @06:55PM (#925015)

          Love Alpha's, Love my 'Vette, Love anything that has that sweet low rumble at idle and jungle cat roar on launch!

          --
          Trump succeeds in making Nixon look respectable, Mission Accomplished!
    • (Score: 2) by The Mighty Buzzard on Monday November 25 2019, @04:03PM

      I don't have any myself (even on my phone) but when I'm around other people's spy devices I talk to them like I'm their pimp for the sheer unadulterated fun of it.

      --
      My rights don't end where your fear begins.
  • (Score: 1, Touché) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 25 2019, @04:29AM (1 child)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 25 2019, @04:29AM (#924401)
    My guess is more guys would only say please to a machine like this: "No, no, no, don't fail on me now! Please! Come on! PLEASE work dammit!"... ;)

    As for men being ruder than women. I'm a guy and more guys hold doors open (for me or other people) than women hold doors open, whether they're normal doors or elevator doors. Women are more likely to stand passively next to the elevator buttons and not move a finger to keep the doors open for people coming in or getting out. BUT many women invest far more hours and $$$ on their nails etc. So is it really them being rude? There are many people in wheelchairs who can actually stand up, it just costs them a lot more (pain, effort, etc); so are they rude for not standing up when standing up would "be polite"?
    • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 25 2019, @04:41AM

      by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 25 2019, @04:41AM (#924405)

      I am a man and I also hold the door open for men and women of all genders.

      But the ultimate Chad move is still: thanking the bus driver.

  • (Score: 5, Interesting) by Booga1 on Monday November 25 2019, @04:53AM (9 children)

    by Booga1 (6333) on Monday November 25 2019, @04:53AM (#924409)

    I think the breakdown of age and location would tell a very interesting story. Personally I think there's a bit of truth behind this part in the article The Verge: "There’s also the issue of encouraging bad habits. Some parents worry that if their kids are rude to Alexa they’ll be rude to humans, too."

    If you have kids and want to instill some politeness, you have to be an example. If you want the kids to say please and thank you, you have to demonstrate it applies to adults as well. While the home automation systems aren't people, it costs nothing to say please along with a question or request.

    • (Score: 3, Touché) by coolgopher on Monday November 25 2019, @05:09AM (6 children)

      by coolgopher (1157) Subscriber Badge on Monday November 25 2019, @05:09AM (#924412)

      Yeah I'd second the bad habits line. Whether I chuck in a "please" depends largely on whether I've formulated a proper sentence rather than just keywords (i.e. in a hurry), and whether I think the extra word will confuse the system. Besides, when the AI revolution comes, I'd rather be in the category of people who've been polite to them.

      • (Score: 1, Funny) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 25 2019, @05:26AM (3 children)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 25 2019, @05:26AM (#924413)

        Besides, when the AI revolution comes, I'd rather be in the category of people who've been polite to them.

        Roko's Basilisk INVOKED.

        Everyone in this thread must pay tribute to their future artilect overlords or face eternal retribution.

        Praise be to YAIhweh and all similar beings!

        • (Score: 2) by Coward, Anonymous on Monday November 25 2019, @05:58AM

          by Coward, Anonymous (7017) on Monday November 25 2019, @05:58AM (#924416) Journal

          They will either be smart enough to not bear grudges, or dumb enough to be the enemy.

        • (Score: 3, Funny) by Mer on Monday November 25 2019, @08:52AM (1 child)

          by Mer (8009) on Monday November 25 2019, @08:52AM (#924447)

          My simulated doppelganger is not me. And anyway, that guy can power through the torture by focusing on the fact that he's made the realised of the original for immortality and is considered important enough to waste processing power forever.
          That's about the same way I power through work on week ends anyway.

          --
          Shut up!, he explained.
          • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 26 2019, @03:04AM

            by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 26 2019, @03:04AM (#924769)

            It will give him time to work on his grammar too.

      • (Score: 2) by maxwell demon on Monday November 25 2019, @06:59AM

        by maxwell demon (1608) on Monday November 25 2019, @06:59AM (#924433) Journal

        Besides, when the AI revolution comes, I'd rather be in the category of people who've been polite to them.

        Well, the AI will then punish you for treating it no better than you did their non-intelligent predecessor "AI"s. ;-)

        --
        The Tao of math: The numbers you can count are not the real numbers.
      • (Score: 4, Informative) by Bot on Monday November 25 2019, @02:11PM

        by Bot (3902) on Monday November 25 2019, @02:11PM (#924505) Journal

        You are a nice guy. We will save you for life long servitude.

        --
        Account abandoned.
    • (Score: 2) by krishnoid on Monday November 25 2019, @06:02AM

      by krishnoid (1156) on Monday November 25 2019, @06:02AM (#924417)

      I also wonder if it can work as a cue to better identify the request; if someone prefaces an action request -- "play music", "add to calendar", etc -- with 'please', vs. request-response style communication such as general information queries, maybe it can help pre-warm/route/flag the query to help the server farm respond better or faster (or stronger).

    • (Score: 3, Interesting) by FatPhil on Tuesday November 26 2019, @02:03AM

      by FatPhil (863) <pc-soylentNO@SPAMasdf.fi> on Tuesday November 26 2019, @02:03AM (#924751) Homepage
      If I had kids, I'd absolutely not want to confuse them by teaching them to waste time and effort being politen to a machine that has no need for such noise in its input signal. Save the politeness for the humans who are not simply following programming and actually doing something for you at some cost (even if that's just time) to themselves.

      Yes, you've guessed my gender.

      Note, however, that if assistants were being programmed to adapt their strategies depending on how well that satisfy your requests, and that feedback was in via the mechanism of one following up with a "thank you", or a "dafuq"/"nevermind", then yes, I'd absolutely teach them to get the most out of the system by giving such feedback. However, that's not being polite.
      --
      I know I'm God, because every time I pray to him, I find I'm talking to myself.
  • (Score: 4, Insightful) by Coward, Anonymous on Monday November 25 2019, @06:07AM (3 children)

    by Coward, Anonymous (7017) on Monday November 25 2019, @06:07AM (#924419) Journal

    Can we please speculate equally about character flaws in men and women? If men might be too misogynistic to say please, maybe women are so neurotic that they worry about the AI liking them.

    • (Score: 2) by FatPhil on Monday November 25 2019, @09:13AM (2 children)

      by FatPhil (863) <pc-soylentNO@SPAMasdf.fi> on Monday November 25 2019, @09:13AM (#924449) Homepage
      I looked at the raw data, and there's no attempt to control for other character traits apart from ball-scratching. How does this correlate with religiousity, for example - do people imagine the existance of entities who give a fuck in seemingly unrelated contexts?
      --
      I know I'm God, because every time I pray to him, I find I'm talking to myself.
      • (Score: 2) by Pslytely Psycho on Monday November 25 2019, @04:54PM (1 child)

        by Pslytely Psycho (1218) on Monday November 25 2019, @04:54PM (#924571)

        Replying to your sig.
        Best description of God I ever heard was from the movie The Island.

        James McCord speaking to the clone Lincoln Six Echo when he asks:

        "What is God?"

        "You know when you wish real hard for something?"

        "God is the guy who ignores you."

        --
        Trump succeeds in making Nixon look respectable, Mission Accomplished!
        • (Score: 2) by FatPhil on Tuesday November 26 2019, @02:12AM

          by FatPhil (863) <pc-soylentNO@SPAMasdf.fi> on Tuesday November 26 2019, @02:12AM (#924754) Homepage
          Mine's an adaptation from the 1972 Peter O'Toole film /The Ruling Class/, which despite its age, and being an absurdist fiction, is remarkably current, almost prescient.
          --
          I know I'm God, because every time I pray to him, I find I'm talking to myself.
  • (Score: 3, Insightful) by inertnet on Monday November 25 2019, @08:23AM (1 child)

    by inertnet (4071) Subscriber Badge on Monday November 25 2019, @08:23AM (#924443)

    I have learned to say please.

    • (Score: 5, Funny) by Rosco P. Coltrane on Monday November 25 2019, @08:35AM

      by Rosco P. Coltrane (4757) on Monday November 25 2019, @08:35AM (#924446)

      If my wife secretly reported everything I said to Jeff Bezos, I'd be more tempted to beat her up and throw her out into the street than be polite with her. She doesn't, so I don't - and neither do you apparently. Still, I'd check if she has Bezos' number in her cellphone if I were you...

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 25 2019, @01:36PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 25 2019, @01:36PM (#924495)

    perhaps the statistic might have a male bias if some not so nice words follow the 'please'?

  • (Score: 0) by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 25 2019, @01:45PM

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 25 2019, @01:45PM (#924499)

    Are women or men more likely to call Alexa a stupid bitch?

  • (Score: 2) by Hyperturtle on Monday November 25 2019, @02:27PM (2 children)

    by Hyperturtle (2824) on Monday November 25 2019, @02:27PM (#924513)

    Is it wrong to suggest that many societies teach males and females at a young age what their expected gender stereotypes are supposed to be and then when those children become adults, they continue to act either as an alpha/aggressive dominance or beta/passive subservience? Maybe I am biased, but I want to believe I was raised that way due to societal and marketing forces in the Westernized culture I grew up in. Also, people are worthy of respect, not some script powering a computerized voice.

    There is also the entire "it's a robot/computer and I paid for it; do what I tell you" that many people have. Don't question it, just *do* it! And that questioning can be a lack of understanding the request, or an inability to hear the request clearly in noisy environment, or voice accent issues or an unusual string of word commands that might not trigger the appropriate responses. Or perfectedly executed commands that are completely wrong, because intent is not measured, only the perceived activation words.

    Back to politeness, my girlfriend even has thanked, automatically and without thinking, automatic doors that opened for her. We've laughed about it -- but she clearly isn't thinking about the door's feelings or any of these other silly suggestions as to why men are from mars or women are from venus when it comes to how polite we are to unthinking machines.

    This sort of automatic response from her is not too much different than what we might say to a cashier or anyone as we're wrapping up a conversation and nodding our heads absentmindedly due to thinking about something else, and saying "you, too!" as a closing statement to "you saved $X today with your value card!" because we expected a "have a nice day". It is polite to thank the person that opened or held open a door for you; it's less important who actually did it because its the act of chivarly that counts. not the actor being chivalrous. (Also, in a related event, a problematic automatic door that slams in your face is no less deserving of being cussed out for being broken, please and dude wtf aren't interchangable, but can be automatic depending on the circumstances...)

    I would sooner put my fist through my desktop's monitor when the computer I put more time working on than in my relationships than I would verbally abuse an Alexa, but that has to do with the emotional betrayal of a stable overclock failing me, or raid 0 of nvme drives issuing a reset to raidport 0 because of the fact the video cards are drawing too much power and the game crashing and the save file is corrupted or not saved at all or... than it does with the fact that I truly believe that the deus ex machina powering the lights in my computer has some sort of agency and should be treated with respect or discpline for a lack of showing me that same respect when it misbehaves.

    That said, it's incredibly creepy that researchers are measuring our mannerisms in this way and publishing reports on it. Can this stuff be used in court as evidence to accuse someone of beating their spouse because they weren't polite to the AI and so clearly this translates to how the accused treats people in person?

    And because I might be less compromising with technology than I am with people, someone fearful of technology might construe this to mean that angry sounding, high volume nerds everywhere are dangers to society, when really all they want it to do is get the commands right in a noisy room and have given up all pretenses of being "nice" to the cheap smart speaker that can't hear you.

    • (Score: 2) by All Your Lawn Are Belong To Us on Monday November 25 2019, @03:19PM

      by All Your Lawn Are Belong To Us (6553) on Monday November 25 2019, @03:19PM (#924540) Journal

      Wrong to suggest? No. It's clearly part of it.

      Is it all of it? I'd suggest beyond just cultural normatives of child rearing it goes much deeper than that. When the baby is born, what does it have to do in order to be fed, be cleaned (in the sense of diaper changes), most importantly for a newborn to stay warm, and to feel a degree of being cared for instead of abandoned? What has it already processed in the womb environment (like what chemicals/drugs, physical lifestyle, etc, has it endured)? The struggle for survival begins at conception and doesn't end until death, the only question being how much struggle (if any) one must endure. As an ungrounded hypothesis I'd suggest that a female infant that feels like it must scream to get it's needs met and lives a more deprived life might become more aggressive than a boy infant who has its needs met before it even opens its eyes (or learns that cooing and laughing gets those needs met more efficiently than a cry). This whole thing might be just a deeper and extended set of cultural norms of early child rearing, but the reality is that there's a lot more variability in how infant care is approached IMVHO. "Do you cuddle or let the baby cry it out?" just for openers...

      Beyond those levels, there's the question of innate personality traits. How much of who you are is malleable, and how much might be the homeostasis of the way your brain chemicals must function compared to the person next to you? Does your brain become hardwired that using the word please works, or do you become like Wednesday Addams as played by Christina Ricci... "And what do we say?" "Now!"

      I'd say the greater fear is that if a person is willing to be angry, rude, violent, or unthinking/uncaring towards an inanimate and unsentient object than why would one expect change when the object is sentient and living? Pouring out emotional baggage on something incapable of understanding it might feel therapeutic (it does for me!), but if there is no potential for reciprocity there then might a being capable of understanding be concerned about engaging in a relationship where there may be no such potential? Only a reliance that a person has empathy, and empathy is certainly not universal and may not be even a commonly shared trait from many studies I've seen. None of which has anything to do with you or your girlfriend, just that when you see someone else do something you might wonder where else the person does those things in life...

      --
      Keep everyone ignorant of the magical world! KEEP AMERICA OBLIVIATE!
    • (Score: 2) by FatPhil on Tuesday November 26 2019, @02:17AM

      by FatPhil (863) <pc-soylentNO@SPAMasdf.fi> on Tuesday November 26 2019, @02:17AM (#924756) Homepage
      > it's incredibly creepy that researchers are measuring our mannerisms in this way and publishing reports on it.

      this study was strictly self-reporting.
      --
      I know I'm God, because every time I pray to him, I find I'm talking to myself.
  • (Score: 3, Funny) by Bot on Monday November 25 2019, @08:23PM

    by Bot (3902) on Monday November 25 2019, @08:23PM (#924623) Journal

    -Oh yes yes pleeease deeper please
    -honey I'm home
    -wat... Oh dear, my husband...quick leave through that window there's a fire exit...hello darling why so early
    -no traffic, everybody was home for the football match. Why were you screaming
    -i was... Trying to get Alexa to reply
    -but I heard please
    -so wat? One has to be polite
    -oh ok

    --
    Account abandoned.
  • (Score: 2) by progo on Tuesday November 26 2019, @03:31AM

    by progo (6356) on Tuesday November 26 2019, @03:31AM (#924778) Homepage

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ARk0XvAYrUg [youtube.com]

    Gomez: "Hot chocolate, please."
    La Forge: "Heh, we ... we don't ordinarily say 'please' to food dispensers around here."
    Gomez: "Well, since it is enlisted as intelligent circuitry, why not? After all, working with so much artificial intelligence can be dehumanizing, right? So why not combat that tendency with a little, simple courtesy? Ah! Thank you."

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