Sometimes we are the fiends … science reveals that humans tend to be meaner to artificially intelligent entities than to other humans. Let’s find out why:
A new incarnation of a 1970s thriller, Westworld, has begun airing on HBO to rave reviews and much excitement. The original film featured an android cowboy (Yul Brynner) walking around shooting people. In this new series, humans (so-far) are the killers; cruelly dispatching artificially intelligent and increasingly sentient android inhabitants of a western-themed amusement park. Eventual retribution against the flesh-and-blood characters is a foregone conclusion, and surely will play out in future episodes.
But would humans really be prone to meanness against artificially intelligent entities … especially if we thought of them as just “dumb machines?” Well, it does seem so.
When dealing with Apple’s Siri, Amazon’s Alexa or Microsoft’s Cortana, there’s evidence that humans can be “just plain mean.” That’s according to a Sept. 29 Fortune article which cites interesting research on the subject. Regarding interactions with computer assistants or call agents, one study says that up to half of us are prone to being quite abusive.
Gartner Research Vice President Frank Buytendijk thinks we ought to try being a little nicer … even if Siri never learns to strap on a six-gun. He asks, “Isn’t good behavior self-evidently a reward in itself, and part of building character?”