Building peace in the minds of men and women

Explore the Gendering of AI Voice Assistants

THINK PIECE 2 of I’d blush if I could, is the first in-depth UN examination of the gendering of AI technology. Using the example of digital voice assistants such as Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri technology, it explains how gender imbalances in the digital sector can be ‘hard-coded’ into technology products.

The think piece details how increasingly ubiquitous digital assistants:

  • reflect, reinforce and spread gender bias;
  • model acceptance and tolerance of sexual harassment and verbal abuse;
  • send explicit and implicit messages about how women and girls should respond to requests and express themselves;
  • make women the ‘face’ of glitches and errors that result from the limitations of hardware and software designed predominately by men; and
  • force synthetic ‘female’ voices and personality to defer questions and commands to higher (and often male) authorities.

 

It shares 18 recommendations regarding the gendering of AI technologies, and advises companies and governments to, among other actions:

  • end the practice of making digital assistants female by default;
  • explore the feasibility of developing a neutral machine gender for voice assistants that is neither male nor female;
  • encourage the creation of public repositories of computer codes and speech taxonomies that are gender-sensitive (see Gender Equality Markers);
  • programme digital assistants to discourage gender-based insults and abusive language; and, most importantly,
  • develop the advanced technical skills of women and girls so they can steer the creation of frontier technologies alongside men.