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Winning Friends and Learning

This article has nothing to do with the show Friends.

Part of becoming friends is finding areas of shared interests, concerns, and morals. People become friends by learning about one another. This learning process can happen over time as people go to school together and have shared experiences, work together, or through clubs or social events, etc. There is a pattern.

One question is: can we be friends with our virtual assistants?

Part of friendship is a reciprocation of values and this is not the case with an assistant — or at least the role of assistant. One can become a friend with a person who is an assistant but the role of assistant by its name is one-sided.

However, virtual assistants can become more friendly. By knowing more about us and reflecting this in their behaviour, they can gain more compliance. if they do make requests (that of course, are for our benefit).

This friendliness process can be accelerated through questions. In Her, Samantha asks a very small number of questions before jumping to a conclusion and even interrupting the protagonist mid-sentence. We could probably do better with building our own assistants that goes through a questionnaire to find our preferences:

- What’d you do this weekend?
- What are your favourite shows, books, movies, websites?
- What apps do you have on your phone?
- When’s your birthday?
- Where was your favourite vacation?
- What is your first memory?
- Where did you go to school?
- Where do you work?
- What do you do for a living?
- When did you first get an email?
- What are some of your favourite songs?

And so on…

With these answers, a virtual assistant could start presenting us with more things we’d like or adapt its language to ours.

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