Microsoft's Cortana Won't Put Up With Sexual Harassment
Not long after Apple unveiled its Siri personal assistant to the world, people began asking her outrageous questions, sometimes inappropriate or just humorous, if for no other reason than they just could. When creating Cortana, Microsoft was well-aware of what its digital assistant was going to have to deal with. As as result, Cortana was designed in such a way to handle abuse or inappropriate questions in a rather specific, simple manner.
According to Microsoft's Deborah Harrison, who is one of eight writers for Cortana, a chunk of the earliest queries were about Cortana's sex life. Over time, it was discovered that different people have many different ways of interacting with bots and digital assistants. Some want the responses to be as succinct as possible, while others talk to them, make admissions to them, and of course, are occasionally rude or inappropriate as well.
A specific goal was to make sure Cortana wasn't treated as a subservient. If she's insulted, she doesn't apologize or back down. She handles it with tact, so as to reduce the chance of further abuse. Interestingly, some AI assistants out there do cater to this sort of thing. CEO of Robin Labs, Ilya Eckstein claims there is a high demand for AI assistants that are "more intimate-slash-submissive with sexual undertones".
What might surprise you is that multiple companies behind these AI characters and services have found that some people try to take things to the next level, not remembering that it's actually AI they're talking to. x.ai's meeting-scheduling robot, for example, has received gifts of flowers and whiskey. She was even asked out on a date.
You can't make this stuff up. The lesson to be learned? Talk nicely to your AI assistant. They're just doing their job and frankly probably just aren't that into you anyway. And who knows, some day we might make great pets for them too.