Can we trust AI with our kids?


The big buzz word these days is AI—Artificial Intelligence. In fact, I have met several high school and college students who say they want to pursue careers in AI. For this week’s TTT, I want to bring up the AI devices that many homes have or will get: Amazon’s Alexa and Echo, and Google Home.

These devices can be an incredible asset to some people. For instance, for those who have limitations with their vision, the device provides them valuable information. I know of several friends who are getting these for their aging parents to help them with tasks like playing music, making calls and finding information.

There are several concerns with such devices, particularly regarding very young people. Recently the toy company, Mattel, planned to release a baby monitor called, “Aristotle.” The idea was that it would form an emotional tie with a baby by doing things like singing and reading to the child.

A device like the Aristotle would give Mattel and other corporations around the clock access to the baby, and collect data which they would use to market to his/her parents. When the people at the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the Story of Stuff Project heard about this device, they started a petition that amassed 20,000 signatures, and ultimately put a stop to Aristotle’s release. Mattel has decided to not bring the monitor to market, at least for now.  

Another topic to consider is that communication with these devices can be a bit worrisome when toddlers and young kids are around. When adults yell out commands at such devices, it turns out toddlers start to do the same. How will this impact the way in which they act with other kids and adults?

As always, I recommend starting your TTT by saying something positive about technology.  

  • What are some of the cool things about AI devices?
  • What information may our machines be gathering about us from AI devices?
  • What do you think about the concerted effort that happened to prevent Mattel from releasing Aristotle?
  • Do you think it is ok for young kids to be in homes where people are shouting out commands at devices?