And Eliminate Stereotypes in AI Applications —
A UNESCO publication produced in collaboration with Germany and the EQUALS Skills Coalition, I’d Blush if I Could, features recommendations on actions to overcome global gender gaps in digital skills, with a special examination of the impact of gender prejudice coded into some of the most prevalent artificial intelligence (AI) applications such as digital voice assistants.
The publication locates this prejudice in the gender imbalance of technical teams leading the development of frontier technologies and identifies policy solutions to help women and girls cultivate strong digital skills.
The recommendations about the gendering of AI are urgent in light of the explosive growth of voice assistants like Amazon’s Alexa technology. Almost all of the assistants are given female names and voices and express a “personality” that is engineered to be uniformly subservient.
The title of the publication, I’d Blush if I Could, borrows its name from the response that Siri, the Apple voice assistant used by hundreds of millions of people, gave for several years when users insulted “her”.
The gendered submissiveness and servility expressed by so many other “female” digital assistants illustrate the gender biases coded into AI products. As the publication explains, these biases are rooted in stark gender-imbalances in skills education and in the technology sector.
Originally published on isemag.com April 1, 2020