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What if women designed more AI?

Much of the commentary on the overlap between robots and women is depressingly reflective of male needs and sensitivities, and what all of this might mean for men. It can seem endless, from all the commentary on ExMachina and its ilk, through tabloid wails about “bonkbots” that turn men into misogynist monsters; and on to the frenzy that provoked Microsoft’s recent TayBot debacle and inspired one of our more recent blogs here on BAM!

One of the more thoughtful articles on this topic is this review on Quartz. Against the unsettling statistic that women achieving American undergraduate degrees in computer science tops out around 20%, the article contains a series of reflective comments from a few of the women who have made it. Where more humanistic objectives are undervalued in favour of technocratic, adversarial ones (“My robot can whup your robot . . .”) it is not surprising that the public perception grows that the future of AI is not about service benefits but about the risks of robots run amok. In the face of these more apocalyptic scenarios, the Quartz review offers a heartening summary of projects being directed by women working with kinder, gentler robots.

Last week saw the publication of a sobering article in The Guardian, assuring us that “the tech industry wants to use women’s voices . . .” (i.e. for the Siris and Cortanas of the world) “. . . but “they just won’t listen to them” (i.e. in working out how Siri et al will respond to real-life queries about, say, sexual assault). And so it will continue as long as “she” wants to be listened to by people asking questions that “she” does not understand. “Her” outputs clearly need more female inputs.

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