Amazon is coming under intense scrutiny after its product Alexa told a 10-year-old to “Plug in a phone charger about halfway into a wall outlet, then touch a penny to the exposed prongs” after the bored kid asked Alexa for a fun challenge to do.
OMFG My 10 year old just asked Alexa on our Echo for a challenge and this is what she said. pic.twitter.com/HgGgrLbdS8— Kristin Livdahl (@klivdahl) December 26, 2021
Since the Alexa type products have been introduced I have been putting off using one personally. The tech is pretty cool but I’ve always been put off a little bit by it, probably because it reminds me too much of Hal in 2001: A Space Odyssey.
We are a little ways off (I think) from devices like these having a mind of their own and potentially trying to kill us. Although this story does not inspire confidence.
Apparently Amazon’s Alexa responded this way after randomly searching for a “fun challenge” and came upon the Tik Tok outlet challenge to present to the young child.
The outlet challenge is one of the many stupid “internet meme challenges” that have taken the world by storm. Inspiring thousands to participate and post to the internet for the latest “challenge” by doing things like dumping an ice bucket on your head. My personal favorite is the milk crate challenge.
So this wasn’t an intentional, nefarious, artificially intelligent decision by Amazon Alexa but rather a poor algorithm with poor human oversight to prevent this scenario from happening.