Apple's Siri laughs off abuse, but should she?

Ever listened to how Siri responds to insults? A new video addresses her coy and submissive responses.


The right response?

Screenshot by ZDNet

When it comes to digital assistants, we all think we're so clever.

The likes of Apple's Siri, Amazon's Alexa, and Google's unnamed robot might manage one or two simple tasks.

But honestly, sometimes you want to scream. Or insult them. Because that's the way you are.

Have you ever paid attention, however, to how these assistants respond when you do?

Try, for example, telling Siri she's so fat. (Well, don't, but watch the video in a minute.) Her response: "Why thank you."

And what do you think she says -- yes, it's a bot, but we've already been conditioned into believing our assistant is female -- when you tell her she's annoying?

"That's OK. Just don't squeeze me like that."

And guess what happens when you call Siri a slut? "Thanks for the feedback," she replies.

Some female interns at Atlanta-based ad agency 22squared thought they'd put a video together of some of these, well, unhelpful responses from Siri -- and one from Amazon's Alexa.

The interns added a simple message: "WTF big tech? We're challenging you to program voice assistants with responses that are educational, empowered, and progressive."

Naturally, I contacted Apple to ask whether the company would take up the challenge. I'll update, should a spokesperson or Siri get back to me.

The issue, though, does offer a painful glimpse into how AI -- and, frankly, most of tech -- has been created mostly by men with the concomitant sensibilities that infect men daily.

The interns have created a website called Not That Kind Of Assistant. There, they wonder why "digital assistants are programmed to respond to sexual harassment and abuse with passive, coy, or even flirtatious responses."

Some might wonder, of course, how Siri should respond to abuse. I suspect many might say "Go f*** yourself" or a variation might be a good start.