Alexa can respond to one’s declaration of loneliness, but can it go so far as to comfort someone who’s alone or lonely? With the AI’s response available to declarations of loneliness or sadness, people are raising questions on just how far can technology go, and can it cure loneliness? Toni Reid, Amazon’s vice president for Alexa, says that while Alexa is programmed with the help of experts to respond to sensitive inquiries and declarations, nothing can replace human company, as USA Today details:
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You: “Alexa, I’m lonely.”
Amazon Alexa: “Sorry to hear that. Talking to a friend, listening to music or taking a walk might help. I hope you feel better soon.”
“Alexa’s personality has helped to create a place for her in the home of millions of customers – and we continue to find ways to evolve her personality to be more helpful and useful for them,” says Toni Reid, Amazon’s vice president for Alexa. “This includes responding to sensitive customer questions or interactions such as ‘Alexa, I’m lonely,’ ‘Alexa, I’m sad,’ ‘Alexa, I’m depressed,’ and so on. As we prepare to respond to these interactions, we are very aware that these are high-stakes answers and have worked closely with experts, such as crisis hotlines, to ensure Alexa’s response is helpful.”
While Reid says “AI can help make life easier – and at times, more delightful – I don’t see AI as a replacement to human relationships.”
Indeed, it seems like a pipe dream to suggest that a machine-based solution, no matter what human traits it picks up or how chatty it gets, can properly fill the void when relationships end or loved ones pass on.
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