Will Alexa and Siri Become ‘Servant’ Names?

amazon echo, alexaLast month, Marion Times columnist Dan Brawner wrote an essay about the Alexa in which he asked: “Are we training a new generation to give orders to servants?”

It’s a good question. Lots of us make demands of AI assistants as if they’re servants. No need to be polite to technology, right?

But I’m curious how this might affect the names of the assistants. Looking at history, we can point to many female names that fell out of favor as soon as they became linked to lower class activities (e.g., servitude, prostitution). Examples include Abigail, Joan, Nan/Nanny, Jill, and Parnel.

Will society come to see AI assistant names like Alexa and Siri as “servant” names over time? If so, will this stigma influence baby names — maybe even long after the original devices/technology are gone?

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2 thoughts on “Will Alexa and Siri Become ‘Servant’ Names?

  1. I think it’s more interesting that so far most (all?) AI assistants are given feminine identities — names, voices, etc. If Amazon had chosen a neutral gender name like Alex instead of Alexa then user could have determined the “gender” of their assistant themselves.

    Personally, I’d name *my* AI assistant something like Nigel or Smithers that evokes a nice English butler.

  2. It’s *very* interesting that AI assistants tend to sound like human females. And that automated voices elsewhere — public transport systems, GPS devices, voice-mail systems, etc. — also tend to be feminine.

    I think many would argue that female voices are more soothing or more pleasing than male voices. Also, I could see how a higher-pitched voice might cut through noise better in a crowded place, like a subway.

    But when it comes to an AI assistant you give commands to like a secretary, or a servant…does the universal usage of a female voice/persona cross a line? Are these disembodied assistants just reinforcing cultural stereotypes?

    …I too would love an AI assistant that had the persona of an English butler. That would be so fun. :)

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