Cortana is, according to recent microsoft news releases being programmed to handle sexual harassment (that is, get mad if you’re inappropriate to her.) I assume this means that the Windows bot identifies indicators that it is being flirted with or disregarded or objectified in order to determine a response or even status change. Of course, Cortana is an object, not a human being, so it’s curious that Microsoft (at least MS Cortana project writer Deborah Harrison) is taking this as a personal front.

To be fair, Cortana will be your valentine if you ask, where Siri politely refuses.

Microsoft assures us that Cortana ain’t for philanderin’ despite that they chose to model the digital assistant after a video-game AI character with a stripperiffic avatar.

Cute female avatars of Microsoft products are not a new thing, though. The animé art community (i.e. Deviantart) will create anthropomorphic möes for anything pop-culture, including software products. Microsoft hires a professional to design möes so as to prevent amateurs from getting… too indulgent. (Recent ones like Windows 10 are even named.)

Siri’s avatars are unofficial.

News articles covering Cortana’s assertiveness have also discussed more flirty digital personalities. I suspect we really want more relatable bots regardless of whether or not they can also look up restaurants, remind us of calendar dates and place calls to known people. Bots with flirtatious replies to specific questions will serve the next step.

Siri’s been asked risqué questions continuously the time since her beta, to some of which she has clever or snarky answers, but these are not regarded by Apple as sexual harassment. Indeed, her most effective deflection is to play dumb (e.g. I don’t understand Siri, what is a blowjob. But I can search the web for it.).

This approach is called behavior extinction. Special responses to interpersonal questions (fresh or otherwise) are a mechanism to anthropomorphize what is otherwise a full-featured search engine with voice command recognition. Remove the special responses and the incidents will stop. (No one is crass with Google).

This can be focused to extinct specific behavior. For instance Siri could chat back to light-hearted banter, while interpreting obscenity or vulgarity strictly as search requests.

Personally, I’d find it more in tune with the assistant persona if Siri or Cortana (or whoever) simply linked directly to the Wikipedia disambiguation page.

I’d prefer that sooner than a bot computing (and relaying to its corporate masters) that I’m an antisocial jackass. That is not the sort of thing Microsoft wants to false-positive.

Image: When Windows XP Service Pack 2 came out with extended built-in security features, it was celebrated with XP-tan getting a new pair of reinforced underwear.


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