This coalition underscores the collateral damage incurred when one brand dominates the market to near monopolistic power.
Presumably, Amazon put thousands of hours into developing the "Alexa" brand and it never occurred to them? Or more cynically, it did occur, but it was acceptable collateral damage?
When considering the ethical ramifications of something done with intentional forethought, the question remains; what is the appropriate responsibility of the instigating party?
I would argue it would be to recognize harm done & whether it’s reasonable or not to believe this harm could’ve been avoided had the branding been more robustly vetted prior to launch, the fact remains that it still exists.
If we are to hold that good corporate citizenship is something more than a buzzword & a marketing slogan, then the expectation would be to acknowledge the error in judgement & its impact on millions of people and rectify the mistake, even if it’s inconvenient or expensive.
At one point or another, we’ve all had our names mocked or to be made the butt of jokes. For every hanging Chad that’s no longer the center of societal gestalt, there’s a Felicia that’s wishing people would just move on already. But that’s also the key difference, these other unfortunate names are just fads that fade out of the limelight as easily and quickly as they appeared.
What is truly bedeviling for Alexas however is this scenario is being driven at the behest of one of the world’s most powerful corporations who's intent on embedding their AI into every facet of our lives with a never ceasing barrage of marketing and advertising. The mockery, harassment, and continuous unwanted attention will never dry up as long as there’s millions upon millions of dollars spent to remind you of Amazon’s products day in and day out.
The consequences of Amazon’s decision to anthropomorphize their device with a human name ranges from name changes, identity erasure, harassment often perpetrated by adults, including teachers, if you can believe it, to job, social and education impact. It’s funny for many; for others impacted by it & without hope of escaping its near continuous effect there have been adverse consequences.
~ father of an Alexa
"It wasn't ignorance. It was willful blindness. Willful blindness is a legal concept which means if there's information you could know or should know but you somehow manage to not know the law deems you are willfully blind. You have chosen not to know."
Amazon has continued to ignore concerned parents, Alexas and users of the technology. Employers have received tweets, direct emails and/or letters from parents and Alexas via LinkedIn, Twitter, Amazon customer service or snail mail. Canned apologies for the "inconvenience" and statements such as "we'll certainly pass this on to the "Alexa" team made by Amazon Help or Customer Service were brushed under the rug. So called "solutions" offered several times to concerned parents by Executive Customer Service to add a credit in their Amazon account was revealing. Offering a small discount to an Alexa on an order indicates your stance that perhaps it will silence them and allow you to continue utilizing inappropriate voice tech practices.
As a result of this “cone of silence”, those impacted grow more and more frustrated and more and more disillusioned with not only Amazon but in the basic decency of the people in power.
"Ethics is knowing the difference between what you have the right to do and what is right to do.” ~Potter Stewart, former Associate Justice of US Supreme Court
We’re not against voice technology. This technology & its like is paradigm shifting for society. Our issue is with the branding decision to use a human name.
The staggering marketing efforts from one of the world’s largest corporations intent on embedding it into every facet of our day to day lives highlights the colossal risks of using a human name. As we’ve endeavored to document, this detrimental decision has impacted approximately half a million at varying degrees named Alexa (& similar) plus the ancillary impact of family and friends. These effects create chaos for these monikered people which span across their personal & professional lives.
Some relish the attention, most do whatever they can to avoid the continuous attention that comes with this ubiquitous market dominance. If we can logically agree with that as laid out, then the crux of this issue comes down to a conflict between mental health and the welfare of people vs. monetary cost to Amazon were it to rebrand to a non-human name.
Based on this, it’s probably not hard to guess why Amazon has yet to acknowledge this issue, however, as real people with families and jobs and problems and dreams, do we not have the moral authority to advocate for change until our voices are heard.
~father of an Alexa
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