You shouldn’t be mean to smart technology.


That’s the takeaway from a new Harvard Business Review piece by Michael Schrage about “Why You Shouldn’t Swear at Siri:”

[The] irresistible rise of ever-smarter machines worldwide demands that leaders and managers become better people. Self-indulgently lashing out at underperforming bots and software agents represents poor leadership-by-example — and worse, bad manners.

Sooner, rather than later, organizations will have to recognize that getting the best out of their smart technologies requires getting the best from themselves.

The abuse of technologies is actually a nontrivial social problem. Think of kids attacking robots in shopping malls (this happened in Japan), or adults beating up a hitchhiking robot (this happened in Philly). While we’ve always yelled at devices when they don’t do what we want them to (e.g., a printer that jans when we’re printing out a final paper due in a few minutes), yelling at technologies that are taking their cues from our behavior could be problematic.