Amazon’s Alexa home assistant device told a 10-year old child to put a penny in a live electrical plug.
The suggestion was given out via an Echo device after the child asked Alexa for a “challenge to do”.
Alexa responded by telling the child to “plug in a phone charger about halfway into a wall outlet, then touch a penny to the exposed prongs.”
The girl’s mother wrote in a tweet: “We were doing some physical challenges, like laying down and rolling over holding a shoe on your foot, from a [physical education] teacher on YouTube earlier,”
“Bad weather outside. She just wanted another one.”
Alexa responded by claiming it had found the challenge “on the web”, from an online news publication called Our Community Now.
“I was right there when it happened and we had another good conversation about not trusting anything from the internet or Alexa,” Livdahl said.
OMFG My 10 year old just asked Alexa on our Echo for a challenge and this is what she said. pic.twitter.com/HgGgrLbdS8
— Kristin Livdahl (@klivdahl) December 26, 2021
The incident was brought to light after Livdahl tweeted what had happened, prompting Amazon to respond by saying it would investigate.
The dangerous challenge had appeared on TikTok and other social media sites around a year ago, however Alexa had clearly failed to vet.
An Amazon spokesperson told CNBC: “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.”
AI expert Gary Marcus pointed out on Twitter how the event shed light on the fact that AI systems still lack basic common sense.
“No current AI is remotely close to understanding the everyday physical or psychological world,” Marcus later told CNBC via Twitter.
“What we have now is an approximation to intelligence, not the real thing, and as such it will never really be trustworthy. We are going to need some fundamental advances — not just more data — before we can get to AI we can trust.”