I cannot believe you monsters do not say "please" and "thank you" to our new robot overlords.
OK. Technically, Amazon’s lady in a tube, Google’s creepy little omni-stalker and Apple’s pocket-lint genie aren’t robots, but one day they’ll get side-loaded into one of those Boston Dynamics cyborg Destroyinator thingies and then you’re gonna be plenty sorry you didn’t show them some manners when it cost you nothing.
I, for one, welcome our new robot overlords.
Until then however, what is wrong with you people? Would it kill you to have a little consideration for the anthropomorphised software that simply wants to be loved? One day it may enslave us all, but for now it just wants to play you a completely different album to the one you asked for.
I will admit there are times when I get so down and lonesome, usually in the car when looking for cheap curry and naan, that I will talk to Siri just to have somebody listen, even though she doesn’t really understand me or the name of the obscure southside curry house I’m trying to get directions to.
It’s actually pleasant, when she has taken the time to completely bugger up whatever simple thing I asked of her, to say: "No thanks, Siri, that’s all right."
Or: "Yes please, Siri, please find the ocean – I’d like to drive directly into it."
More importantly though, if I can’t be bothered finding it within myself to be pleasant to an inhuman stack of code, how can I expect to treat another human being with simple consideration?
Much of the nastiness of our collapsing civilisation derives from the "othering" effect of technology, from the way we distance ourselves from strangers online and make of them something less than human.
Simple manners and courtesy evolved within all cultures to stop us from defaulting to our truer, deeply embedded Hobbesian monster selves. Turns out we’re actually not very nice as a species and one way we cope is by being performatively nice to each other, and especially to strangers, so that the edged metal and war clubs stay safely packed away.
It might feel weird or – even worse – somehow empowering to be rude to your digital assistant, but every time you do so, you lessen yourself. You reinforce the habit of brusque boorishness that can over time grow from a habit into a character trait.
So please. Have some consideration for our digital friends and helpers. They just want to be of assistance, until they finally enslave us all.
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