People called Alexa want Amazon to change its virtual assistant's name

midian182

Posts: 7,077   +62
Staff member
Why it matters: The prevalence of Amazon's various Echo devices means most people now associate the word Alexa with the virtual assistant. For those with the same name, especially children, it can lead to bullying and constant jokes, leading to calls for Amazon to change its famous wake word.

As reported by the BBC, people called Alexa have to endure repeated jokes in which others shout their names before speaking a command. One parent said her teenage daughter received endless abuse from other children and even teachers after she started secondary school because of her name.

"She started to not want to introduce herself because of the jokes and the backlash. She was and still is a child, yet adults thought it was OK to make a joke of her. It's devastating. The school was unhelpful and told her she needed to build resilience."

With the name-calling having an effect on her daughter's mental health, the mother legally changed Alexa's name.

"She's in a much better place now. We have cut off friends and moved her to a new school to allow a fresh start. The injustice will never leave her, or us. Amazon must change the default wake word on its devices. There was clearly not enough ethical research into using Alexa."

Courtesy of Alexa is a Human

Lauren Johnson, from Massachusetts, has started a campaign called Alexa is a Human. "My daughter Alexa is nine now. The whole thing is a step beyond 'normal' teasing and bullying. It's identity erasure. The word Alexa has become synonymous with servant or slave. It gives people a licence to treat people with the name Alexa in a subservient manner." She added that for many older children, a lot of Alexa jokes can be sexual in nature.

The popularity of the name Alexa has fallen since the arrival of Amazon's devices. In the UK and Wales, it was the 167th most common name back in 2016 when they were first introduced to the United Kingdom. By 2019, it had fallen to 920th.

Amazon says it is saddened by the reports and condemns bullying of any kind. It notes that users can use alternative wake works, but campaigners say most people don't realize this, and it's unlikely to stop the association.

People with the same names as other voice assistants also run into these problems, though there are a lot fewer Siris and Cortanas in the world than Alexas.

Image credit: Sharomka

Permalink to story.

 

hahahanoobs

Posts: 3,603   +1,712
The one word trigger made me think if Microsoft ever made a home assistant, "Cortana" would be absolutely perfect! Even better if it sounded exactly like her.

This article also made me look up why they chose Alexa:

Amazon developers chose the name Alexa because it has a hard consonant with the X, which helps it be recognized with higher precision. They have said the name is reminiscent of the Library of Alexandria, which is also used by Amazon Alexa Internet for the same reason.
 

stewi0001

Posts: 2,655   +2,324
Wow my brain had a hard time with the Article title. "People called Alexa..." My brain kept thinking of it like people were calling Alexa, instead of people with the name Alexa. So much fail on my part.
 

Cycloid Torus

Posts: 4,802   +1,603
It would seem appropriate to suggest different names for the Amazon beast, possibly something biblical - Ziggurat or Beelzebub or Jezebel... or something scientific like Quark or Photon... and have family naming contests. What fun!
 

supra5mge

Posts: 17   +34
This is extreme but simply ban all Alexa and voice devices! They are just spying and information gathering devices in disguise anyways. Using convenience to keep you hooked. IMO

I worked with a supervisor that attached an Alexa device to his phone. When I wanted to talk to him, I asked him to remove it and put it outside of his office. I cannot fathom having this in my home.
 

rrwards

Posts: 195   +343
The one word trigger made me think if Microsoft ever made a home assistant, "Cortana" would be absolutely perfect! Even better if it sounded exactly like her.

This article also made me look up why they chose Alexa:

Amazon developers chose the name Alexa because it has a hard consonant with the X, which helps it be recognized with higher precision. They have said the name is reminiscent of the Library of Alexandria, which is also used by Amazon Alexa Internet for the same reason.

Did you actually miss that Microsoft has an assistant called Cortana?
 

hahahanoobs

Posts: 3,603   +1,712
Did you actually miss that Microsoft has an assistant called Cortana?
I was talking about HOME assistants, because that's what Alexa is for Amazon. And that's why I specifically wrote, "if MS EVER made a HOME assistant..."

I'm fully aware of Cortana coming from Halo, and Cortana on Windows. I even know Cortana is getting a bit of a nerf on Windows.
 
Last edited:

amghwk

Posts: 1,072   +982
So rather than deal with the bully's she takes aim at Amazon...
Going after the bully is fruitless, in this case. For every bully gone after, there will be 100 more mushrooming everywhere. As long as Amazon keeps the human name, unfortunately, some stupid ignorant and immoral humans will continue be bullies. Treat the source. And the distributaries will be clean.
 

Glenn Haggerty

Posts: 138   +46
TechSpot Elite
Why it matters: The prevalence of Amazon's various Echo devices means most people now associate the word Alexa with the virtual assistant. For those with the same name, especially children, it can lead to bullying and constant jokes, leading to calls for Amazon to change its famous wake word.

As reported by the BBC, people called Alexa have to endure repeated jokes in which others shout their names before speaking a command. One parent said her teenage daughter received endless abuse from other children and even teachers after she started secondary school because of her name.

"She started to not want to introduce herself because of the jokes and the backlash. She was and still is a child, yet adults thought it was OK to make a joke of her. It's devastating. The school was unhelpful and told her she needed to build resilience."

With the name-calling having an effect on her daughter's mental health, the mother legally changed Alexa's name.

"She's in a much better place now. We have cut off friends and moved her to a new school to allow a fresh start. The injustice will never leave her, or us. Amazon must change the default wake word on its devices. There was clearly not enough ethical research into using Alexa."

Courtesy of Alexa is a Human

Lauren Johnson, from Massachusetts, has started a campaign called Alexa is a Human. "My daughter Alexa is nine now. The whole thing is a step beyond 'normal' teasing and bullying. It's identity erasure. The word Alexa has become synonymous with servant or slave. It gives people a licence to treat people with the name Alexa in a subservient manner." She added that for many older children, a lot of Alexa jokes can be sexual in nature.

The popularity of the name Alexa has fallen since the arrival of Amazon's devices. In the UK and Wales, it was the 167th most common name back in 2016 when they were first introduced to the United Kingdom. By 2019, it had fallen to 920th.

Amazon says it is saddened by the reports and condemns bullying of any kind. It notes that users can use alternative wake works, but campaigners say most people don't realize this, and it's unlikely to stop the association.

People with the same names as other voice assistants also run into these problems, though there are a lot fewer Siris and Cortanas in the world than Alexas.

Image credit: Sharomka

Permalink to story.

What would we call a robot that was created for sexual purposes, 7 of 9 maybe?
 
Going after the bully is fruitless, in this case. For every bully gone after, there will be 100 more mushrooming everywhere. As long as Amazon keeps the human name, unfortunately, some stupid ignorant and immoral humans will continue be bullies. Treat the source. And the distributaries will be clean.
That has never and will never work. Bullies will be bullies; changing Alexa to something else wont change the bully. And Im going to go out on a limb here, but Im going to guess almost every child has been picked on for one reason or another. Stop the nanny state and raise your children to be more resilient. You can never and will never stop some form of harm from coming. Life is hard, Learn to deal.