Should you say ‘please’ to an AI?

There are two reasons we say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.

The first is pretty obvious. It gives the other person dignity. It acknowledges their humanity. It implies that at some level, this engagement is voluntary.

But of course, none of this is true when we’re talking to Siri or Alexa.

There’s a second reason.

It helps us realize that we might be acting entitled. We forget to bring humility along. “Please” is a narrative to ourselves, one about gratitude and choice. When we start barking orders without regard for what it costs to follow those orders, it’s easy to forget that time and resources are always scarce.

Even when it’s not voluntary, it turns out we benefit when we act as if it might be.

[And should an AI say please and thank you to us? Probably.]