Gendered AI

Written by Mark Evans

AI is already having an impact on our lives, from financial services to leisure there’s AI - even if you are not aware of it. But the World Economic Forum (WEF) poses an interesting and difficult question about gender. As AI potentially has can create ‘personalities’ (remember Marvin from Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy?) are the physical, vocal and even behavioural elements becoming gendered? And if they are, is this an issue and why?

For example the WEF notes that sexbots and voiced virtual assistants are mainly given female attributes (think Amazon’s Alexa), and by their nature are generally servile. Obedient machines with female personalities could be problematic partly because it then informs a cultural model for real humans.

And this is where it will get difficult, because the range of ‘voices’ available is going to increase, like old TomTom, users will be able to select the attributes they want – and if it ends up roughly 50/50 maybe no one will care – but what if a majority of both men and women want a female voice (or the other way around?). What will it say about us? Will be think a female sounding device submissive or a male voiced one commanding – even when saying the same thing? Should there be quotas in AI?

Then, of course, there could be an ethnic element too?

Technology will not solve such questions, but it will make them apparent – and soon.