When you were younger, you were probably conditioned by your parents to always be polite to other people. Saying “please” and “thank you” before and after a request, as well as saying “hello” and “goodbye” are among the most common ways of being courteous to one another. These simple additions to a conversation can help ease tension, so for the most part we have learned to incorporate them whether we are talking to friends, family, and probably more importantly, perfect strangers.
But what about computers and phones?
An interesting phenomenon that I’ve noticed amongst myself and others is that people frequently speak politely to their voice assistant. “Hey Siri,” is usually followed by a, “please call Steve Smith for me,” or “Ok Google, please set my alarm for 7:00 a.m. tomorrow.” Depending on the action – like setting an alarm – I’ve ever seen people toggle the microphone just to say, “Thank you.” I find that I’m very much the same way, even though I realize that I’m talking to an AI that couldn’t care less whether I’m being polite or unabashedly rude.
Speaking of, I’ve seen people treat their voice assistants in a rude manner as well. One time at the store, there was a group of teenagers who were looking at electronics. Siri was toggled by accident, and the boy loudly proclaimed, “[expletive] off, Siri!” (I’ll let you fill in the blank.) I guess Siri got the memo, though, because I didn’t hear anything from her after that.
While it may seem silly to treat your voice assistant like a real person, it doesn’t go unnoticed. The AIs are usually programmed to respond in some form or another, whether you’re being polite or rude. Siri, for example, will tell you things like “I aim to please” or “You’re welcome” when thanked; she also silently responds with “!” or “Ooooh!” when taunted with swear words. If you tell her to “Go away” she will tell you that “Goodbye would be more polite…” or perhaps ask you what she did to deserve that. However, if you’re using the “Hey Siri” feature, you can tell her these same things and she will just go away as asked. She will only respond if you toggle her via the home button.
In the same capacity, Google Now recognizes “Thank you” as a dismissal by replying with “You’re welcome” and giving you a list of things that Google Now can do. However, if you try to swear at it, it usually just conducts a Google search of the phrase, so that’s a bit risky (and not very effective – or nice).
There isn’t anything weird about the concept. As mentioned, politeness is something that is deeply rooted in most people’s minds, so when prompted to talk to our phones like it’s a person, it probably triggers politeness out of sheer habit most of the time. Plus, a little politeness towards your AIs could go a long way in the extremely unlikely event of an AI takeover in the future. I’m not taking any risks.
Readers, what are your thoughts on this phenomenon? Are you polite when speaking to your voice assistants, or do you just give simple commands without the fluff?