Alexa tells 10-year-old girl to put penny in plug socket

Virtual personal assistants like Amazon’s Alexa have made our lives a lot easier. They have also made it easier for children to learn and interact with the vastness of the internet. But artificial intelligence is, at the end of the day, nothing more than a reasonably advanced machine– and, sometimes, their lack of human logic is apparent. Take this story for example.

In England, Alexa suggested a 10-year-old touch the prongs of a half-inserted plug using a coin. Needless to say, if the girl had listened to it, she could have been seriously injured.

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Amazon Alexa on wooden table top

Where Did Alexa Get The Idea From?

The exact words that Alexa said were:

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Plug in a phone charger about halfway into a wall outlet, then touch a penny to the exposed prongs.”

The extremely dangerous activity is called the “the penny challenge”. It originates from TikTok and has been in circulation for the past year.

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Kristin Livdahl's tweet about malfunctioning Alexa
Kristin Livdahl | Twitter

Read: Fire Safety Tips for Preventing House Fires, from the Laundry Room to the Kitchen

Kristin Livdahl, the mother of the girl, tweeted a description of the incident. She said that the pair were doing a few physical challenges like rolling over etc. They were following a YouTube physical education teacher because the weather was bad outside. That’s when her daughter asked Alexa to suggest another “challenge.

To this, their Echo speaker came up with the suggestion it had “found on the web”.

Metals are excellent conductors of electricity. Putting them into contact with any live sockets can result in fires, electric shocks, and other kinds of damage. A fire station manager had warned that he had seen people lose their arms, hands, and fingers due to such activities[1].

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Child speaking to Amazon Alexa

The Aftermath

Ms. Livdahl had immediately interrupted Alexa and told her to stop. Moreover, her daughter is “too smart to do something like that”, as per her tweet.

In a statement issued to BBC, Amazon said that they had introduced updates to Alexa as soon as possible to stop the virtual assistant from issuing such recommendations in the future. The statement read:

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Customer trust is at the centre of everything we do and 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.

To be fair, the challenge was made up by humans, so it is not entirely the machine’s fault. Though it just shows that Alexa is still missing certain human qualities, like common sense. But, for a machine that is designed to be accessible for kids, this is quite concerning. What do you think? 

Keep Reading: Mothers Throw Water Over Babies In TikTok Challenge

Sources

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  1. Firefighter’s warning to teens over ‘Penny Challenge’ on TikTok.” York Press. Simon Walton. February 5, 2020
  2. Alexa tells 10-year-old girl to touch live plug with penny.” BBC. December, 2021.
Mayukh Saha
Freelance Writer
Mayukh is a Content Marketer and Social Media Manager with over 5 years of experience in the industry. Mayukh believes in the power of content; how it can positively impact lives, scale businesses and touch people. In his spare time Mayukh likes to read about latest tech trends and loves to travel in the nature. You can reach him at [email protected]
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