MediaPost: How Are Voice Assistants Training Us To Talk?

By Nicole McCallum, Director, Communications Planning

Excerpt:

In addition, Voice Assistants don’t question the hierarchy of your needs or separate your wants. Increasing the temperature of the bedroom is met with identical proficiency as calling for help in a crisis. Voice won’t question your intention, or heed your emotional state — although the latter may change sometime down the line if AI one day starts enabling Voice to pick up on these cues. Instead, Voice Assistants do your bidding in the most direct, simplistic sense.

They don’t provide a sense of discovery by suggesting alternatives or providing an opinion. They don’t talk to you about the repercussions of your demand or how it may impact or relate to previous demands. And notably, right now Voice Assistants are almost always represented with a female voice while they do our bidding without demanding respect in return — although the news coming out of Google I/O shows that we’ll start to see some male voices represented in this space as well.

As we become more familiar and comfortable with this language exchange, we must look at the effect it will produce on the culture of interpersonal communication. It’s generally accepted that a habit is formed after 21 days and that people become experts in a given skill after 10,000 hours. Considering the frequency with which we can address our voice assistant, our demand exchange has the potential to effortlessly reach 10,000 hours. We may find ourselves becoming experts in social misconduct and demand hierarchy, and our children may learn this to be acceptable communication. 

By habit or with accidental expertise, how will the Voice generation engage with people in service positions, with so many of them having demanded their ever-present needs from a faceless female entity? Will it adversely impact the view of gender roles and need states? Will a child’s first response to any need become a verbal demand instead of developing self-sufficiency? When you think about how today’s generations prefer to text instead of talk, and smartphone consumption continues to rise, will users find solace in the ever-present, soothing voice of the digital assistant in lieu of seeking the more complicated, nuanced, often confusing interactions with real-life contemporaries?

This is not to dampen excitement: Voice has a wonderful role to play in the evolution of technology. It allows for enhanced personal output by making us more efficient and provides much needed assistance for those with mobility or sensory limitations. Perhaps the key to driving the voice-enabled future is incorporating AI in ways that evolve Voice from demand culture to request culture.

For example, polite requests could be rewarded with a positive compliment, while poor conduct is penalized with a short, but irritating delay and a verbal reminder to include social graces (making exceptions of course for urgent situations). Both Amazon and Google just recently announced new updates for parents to try to encourage children specifically to make their asks more politely. With a potential shift to request culture, we could elevate Voice from servitude and create a more humanly realistic engagement.”

Read the full article on MediaPost.