What is ethical conversation design? Why is it important? And what can we do to design conversations more responsibly? Join Deborah Harrison, Cortana’s first writer, to find out.

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In this episode: ethical conversation design

Conversational AI systems aren’t sentient (yet). If anything, the creators and conversation designers are the consciousness of the system.

That’s deep, and Deborah Harrison, Senior Content Experience Manager, Conversational UI, Microsoft, takes it deeper, as we discuss the critical responsibility of ethical conversation design.

How do you respond to someone who says “I’m gay” to your voice app or chatbot? How do you know whether this isn’t the first time someone has said those words vs someone messing around?

What about abusive behaviour? How do you handle that?

How about those that might believe that they’re talking to a real person, not an automated AI?

Our creations and the conversations we design are the brain and personality of the system, and so designing safely and ethically is our responsibility.

Dustin Coates and I had the absolute pleasure of chatting with Microsoft’s Deborah Harrison,┬áthe very first writer on the Cortana team, to discuss all of this and more, including the origins of Cortana, what it was like to be the first writer for Microsoft’s digital assistant,┬áthe importance of personality and persona in conversational experiences, and the critical responsibility of ethical conversation design.


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