Does It Matter What We Call a Robot?

Do you find yourself referring to virtual assistants like Siri and Alexa as she?

“She said that it’s going to rain today.”

“I don’t know when Apollo 11 landed. Ask Alexa, she can tell us!”

You’re not alone. It’s difficult not to refer to software that has a female voice as she or her. The same is true for computers with male voices, such as the one IBM’s Watson used on Jeopardy in 2011.

It’s natural to think of something that sounds female as feminine and something that sounds male as masculine. However, machines do not actually have a sex. It’s important to consider the possible effects of calling a a robot he, she, or it.

Should humans refrain from giving machines a gender?

It’s a philosophical quandary. Obviously, your smart phone, smart speaker, and computer do not have a sex, but that doesn’t mean they can’t have a gender.

People have assigned gender to inanimate objects for a long time. When Car Guy A shows his newly acquired hot rod to Car Guy B the response is some variation of, “She’s a beaut” rather than, “He’s very handsome”. It’s traditional for ships, vessels, and watercraft to be metaphorically gendered female. Many languages have masculine and feminine words, even though the words themselves do not have a sex; the French word for boat (bateau) is masculine and the French word for house (maison) is feminine.

The question is, does it matter if we call robots he, she, or it? We can’t just say, “It doesn’t matter. We’ve applied a gender to inanimate objects for ages.”

Much of what was appropriate in the past is no longer acceptable today, but the question isn’t so much about explicit and outright disrespect or abuse. How we refer to things has a more subtle influence on our society’s mindset and cultural gender roles.

Both men and women went along with boats being referred to as feminine, without considering how that influenced their thoughts towards women, or how it affected society’s overall view towards women.

It might not matter, but what if it does?

It’s difficult to gauge just how much of an effect calling a robot he, she, or it actually has on our society. However, we don’t need to apply a gender to something that naturally does not have a gender. It’s unnecessary and refraining from referring to machines as he or she could help us remove something that either consciously or unconsciously influences the way society perceives an entire group of people.

Call 479-422-0390 for Indramat support

Regardless of how your refer to your Indramat motion control system, you need to make sure that your machines keep running smoothly. We can assist with preventive maintenance and inspection as well as troubleshooting and Indramat factory repair. Call 479-422-0390 for immediate support, or contact us online.