It’s actually pleasant, when she has taken the time to completely bugger up whatever simple thing I asked of her, to say: “No thanks, Siri, that’s all right.”

Or: “Yes please, Siri, please find the ocean – I’d like to drive directly into it.”

More importantly though, if I can’t be bothered finding it within myself to be pleasant to an inhuman stack of code, how can I expect to treat another human being with simple consideration?

Much of the nastiness of our collapsing civilisation derives from the “othering” effect of technology, from the way we distance ourselves from strangers online and make of them something less than human.

Simple manners and courtesy evolved within all cultures to stop us from defaulting to our truer, deeply embedded Hobbesian monster selves. Turns out we’re actually not very nice as a species and one way we cope is by being performatively nice to each other, and especially to strangers, so that the edged metal and war clubs stay safely packed away.

It might feel weird or – even worse – somehow empowering to be rude to your digital assistant, but every time you do so, you lessen yourself. You reinforce the habit of brusque boorishness that can over time grow from a habit into a character trait.

So please. Have some consideration for our digital friends and helpers. They just want to be of assistance, until they finally enslave us all.



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