With Apple launching a smart-home speaker, we can now officially say that EVERY single tech company out there, has its own AI. While it’s too early to bet on a winner in this binary code wars, we can definitely say that your next secretary/friend/partner/pet, will possibly be digital. But with so many AI assistants, the real question is, why the human race hasn’t quite adopted artificial voices in the same way as Apple would love us to?
What we have been good at, is making fun of them. For every new AI, there’s someone making it look dumb. Alexa has barely made it into people’s homes before it was manipulated into a creepy skull, telling you the weather with a wiggly head and moving eyes and creating a comedy moment for us all.
With the birth of a new AI, we need to show that we’re smarter and, inevitably, laugh at its misfortune. It is people, not the machines who proved to be the real antagonist in this story. We are the ones who taught Cortana to be racist, made Siri homophobic and, in my house, it barely takes five minutes before someone asks Alexa to take her clothes off.
With all these desires, it seems like the 90s fear of the next-generation robots taking over the world, is long gone. But if we are no longer scared of it, why do people feel it’s ok to use and abuse this new life form?
According to some researchers, this has to do with the way we see humour. The incongruity theory argues that we laugh when we expect one outcome and are presented with something completely different. In other words, we have been told that AI is scary and smarter than us, so we find it funny when it’s struggling to understand that it is being laughed at, or that it is articulating unacceptable (a.k.a. politically incorrect) phrases.
Another theory says that we laugh when we feel that we are better than someone else. The superiority theory argues that seeing someone else being stupid makes us feel detached from the situation. When we see another person/machine making our mistake, we are able to step back and laugh in a way we simply can’t when we’re in the situation ourselves. Asking Alexa to take her clothes off and sensing her confusion makes us feel what we normally do if we were asked that questions ourselves, while feeling that we would have a better answer and, ultimately, that we’re smarter than her.
Finally, the relief theory argues that we laugh when we’re relieved from tension. We may have thoughts that machines would outsmart us, take our jobs and rule our world, but nodding its skull while telling the weather makes us realise that it’s not going to happen. Not just yet…
Yelena Kensborn – a journalist and blogger
focused on New Tech, IoT and innovation.
Read more articles on www.kanesalley.com