6/28/2018

The future of AI may be female, but it isn’t feminist


Housed in a tall plastic cylinder, Amazon’s Alexa is far from physically resembling a woman. Yet when asked about its gender, the system curiously responds it is “female in character.” A closer look at recent developments in artificial intelligence shows Alexa is the rule rather than the exception. From Apple’s Siri to Hanson Robotics’ humanoid robot Sophia, it seems that the future is female indeed — but not in the way we intended.

Artificial intelligence and robotics may intend to free us from many human limitations, but it seems that gender stereotypes are not one of them. Some recent achievements in these fields feel like we’re transporting back into the 1950s rather than into the future.

In industries such as sports and weaponry, names and appearances of devices are usually either male or somewhat technical. A prominent example is TaekwonV, winner of the robot skiing competition at this year’s Winter Olympics and named after a boy in a popular manga comic. However, in the service and caring industries, names and appearances of devices are almost exclusively female....more