Alexa Almost Endangers Young Kid’s Life Over Virtual Challenge

Amazon Inc.’s (AMZN} virtual assistant, Alexa, is mostly used to help out people. However, recently it endangered a human life when it asked a 10-year-old girl to touch a live electrical plug with a penny.

Alexa’s suggestion was given through an Echo smart speaker after the child asked Alexa for a “challenge to do.” Alexa’s answer to the question was “Plug in a phone charger about halfway into a wall outlet, then touch a penny to the exposed prongs.”

The girl’s mother, Kristin Livdahl, put out a tweet about the incident on Sunday, including a screenshot of the event as it had taken place. In another tweet, she maintained “We were doing some physical challenges, like laying down and rolling over holding a shoe on your foot, from YouTube earlier.”

It was following that the girl asked Alexa for a challenge and the virtual assistant asked the girl to attempt the challenge that it had “found on the web.” Alexa pulled the challenge from an online news publication called Our Community Now. The news website also did not comment on this issue.

The life-threatening challenge, which Alexa failed to recognize, appeared on social media platforms about a year ago. The challenge is dangerous as metals conduct electricity and putting metal coins into a plug socket can lead to violent electric shocks and fires, with reports of people having lost their fingers in the challenge.

An Amazon spokesperson, while commenting on the issue, said, “Alexa is designed to provide accurate, relevant, and helpful information to customers. As soon as we became aware of this error, we took swift action to fix it.”. No other details, as to what the “swift action” was, were not given.

Artificial intelligence expert Gary Marcus on Wednesday told CNBC via Twitter that
this incident shows that how the AI system does not have the basic common sense.
He said, “No current AI is remotely close to understanding the everyday physical or psychological world. What we have now is an approximation to intelligence, not the real thing, and as such it will never really be trustworthy. We are going to need some fundamental advances, not just more data, before we can get to AI we can trust.”

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