Let’s consider the popular voice assistants: Alexa by Amazon, Siri from Apple and Cortana from Microsoft. Ian Bogost, Professor at the Institute for human Sciences in Technological Institute of Georgia, recently wrote in The Atlantic that they represent the gender: they have female names, and they perform household tasks that the stereotypes are considered to be female. In addition, when sexist allusions bots can only ignore them or stop talking, which is very far from feminist ideals.

Some options are just better than others, but in any case to give a robot any gender is a sure way to strengthen social prejudice and encourage the objectification.

We create robots with our own prejudices

A few months ago I asked students in my course “Philosophy of technology” take the survey SPACE10, “living laboratories of the future” Ikea, called “do you Speak human?”. All issues relating to personal preferences: respondents were asked what should be the appearance and behavior of robots.

Among other things it was necessary to mention whether the bot has to be “like her mother, guardian”, “independent, daring” or “obedient, helpful.” Most students appreciated these statements positively, describing them as a good way to describe the different behaviors of the virtual assistant. They noticed gender-sensitive first response, but did not consider it discriminatory, since science has proved the existence of the maternal instinct to protect offspring.

It may be so. But, unfortunately, it is very easy to blur the distinction between scientific facts and ideologicamente ideas. The establishment of associations similar to the linking of motherhood and care, makes uncomfortable feel women who are having difficulty in communicating with children, or even decide not to have any.

What are the “hot buttons” voice interaction?

So what can be useful postmodern aesthetics? Author of articles about technology in the New York Times Tech, Wired Clive Thompson believes that the liberation of the voice assistants from anthropomorphic features, as well as non-sexist attitude, can contribute to the switching of votes from highest female to lowest male, or their simultaneous sounding in unison.

This solution correspond to the aesthetics of postmodernism, because the change and merging of the voices at the same time performs two tasks: recalls that the digital assistant is your companion, but at the same time indicates that this companion is not real.

Photo: Unsplash

Apple deserves praise for trying to bring Siri beyond the original gender associations, which the company created, using bot the voice of Susan Bennett. If you ask Siri whether she is a woman, get a vague answer, such as “I was not assigned gender” or a “Well, my voice sounds like a female, but it exists outside of human understanding of gender.”

It is a step in the right direction, but the wrong execution. Siri will open the map only if you will be inquiring her to go on. In other cases, it is not too willing to tell that is just a bot.

Robots, remind us that you are not human

The best example is Woebot, application for cognitive behavioral therapy with chat-bot. To reduce the discomfort that some people experience when receiving help from another person and not to create illusions about the possibilities of the service in emergency situations, Woebot uses his people to expression, stressing that he is only a robot.

So, Woebot says to users: “I’m just a robot. Charming and witty, but still a robot” and “How convenient that I have a computer for the brain and perfect memory … If you’re lucky, I can detect a clue that the person might miss.” Woebot even pushes you to say “Sir, Yes, sir!” to correct you: “hehe… But I’m not sir, not Madam.”

I’m talking about postmodern abousteit, but this term was chosen only because nothing better could not come up. The concept of postmodernism is ambiguous, and some people associate it with a deep skepticism about truth. I don’t want the developers to solve complex philosophical problems, but encourage them to more honestly represent their device.


Materials on the subject:

Dreams of a mechanical friend: how evolving industry of robot companions

Perm startup Promobot unveiled a robot with a human appearance

Scientists have taught a robot to play jenga: this is the first step to the emergence of touch the machines

Meet Zora: a small robot companion for the elderly

Read more •••


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