What Does Gender Have to Do With Artificial Intelligence?

Do you want your artificially intelligent systems to be male or female? Would you rather your AI be gender-neutral? Maybe you haven’t given much thought to the gender of your AI, and maybe you’re a little taken aback at the idea that a non-living machine could even have a gender. What does gender have to do with artificial intelligence, anyway?

Laura Sydell wrote a piece for NPR which explores the relationship between gender and virtual assistants.

Sydell points out that most of our virtual assistants are female. They speak – our at least started out speaking – in a female voice, and have feminine names like Siri, Alexa, and Cortana.

While it’s easy to say, “What a coincidence!” or “So what?” the article does bring up some interesting points about the psychological element of gender and AI.

Can AI gender affect our psychology?

One concern is that speaking to virtual assistants in a rude or derogatory manner sets a poor example for children. Children may interpret this behavior towards female AI as being an acceptable way to speak to women. That’s LivePerson CEO Robert LoCascio’s opinion on the matter, anyway.

The article also mentions a German GPS system that was introduced with a female voice. The company received “complaints from male customers who didn’t want a woman telling them what to do”. It seems worth mentioning that an AI system giving directions that the user requested isn’t quite the same thing as being told what to do.

Siri was launched in great Britain with a male voice. Justine Cassell – a member of the Equal AI initiative and dean at the School of Computer Science at Carnegie Mellon University – suggests this is because the British are accustomed to male butlers. This isn’t the first time virtual assistants have been compared to servants.

It’s just the beginning

It’s interesting that we are already having discussions about gender and AI. Our virtual assistants are little black cylinders and screens. They are programs that – apart from having a human voice – don’t really seem all that human.

Sure, some virtual assistants have been programmed to give compliments or carry on conversations (sort of) but you would never mistake a virtual assistant for a human being.

While it may seem contrived to worry about AI and gender the psychological component could be worth exploring. This is especially true as AI and virtual assistants become more commonplace in our daily lives.

Just as artificial intelligence becomes more common in our day to day lives, so does automation. Of course, automation is nothing new for manufacturers. In fact, your Indramat system may be two or three decades old by now. Give us a call at 479-422-0390 – or visit our contact page – when it’s time to service your Indramat machinery.