"You dumb cow, get a move on!" This is how my own sons interact with assistants. The fact that the assistants are artificial doesn't make it any better. Each of the four main home assistants - Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, and Microsoft's Cortana - have a female voice by default. So my sons perceive them for what they presently are: subservient females who belong in the house. Seeing boys bossing around subservient faceless female voices is deeply disconcerting. Exactly what kind of image of women is this generation developing?
It is particularly troubling because in the future the number of conversational female chatbots will explode. Already, the new chatbots are everywhere, the EVAs, SIAs, and the like, these submissive robo-secretaries working for banks and insurance companies, offering their services unquestioningly.
But why? Well, because women are not in the room when the big casts of artificial intelligence are born and when conversation designs are being programmed. A recent study by Wired found that only 12 percent of robo-scientists are women.
Nevertheless - there are increasing voices of opposition regarding such age-old role models being used in new tech gadgets. Alexa was the victim of such violent sexual harassment that Amazon had to respond. Now, the company boasts that it has reprogrammed Alexa to be a feminist. However, she still responds spectacularly tamely to sexist remarks. Apple, on the other hand, has not reacted at all. That's careless, because many more people talk to Siri than to Alexa, over a billion people worldwide. I used sexist language to call out Siri, like:
"Women are stupid."
Siri: "I don't know how to respond to that."
I do, Apple does, as well as any decent human being. So does every statistic. So at least oppose it with some rationality and counter it with: Intelligence is normally distributed.
Siri: "No comment. How can I help?"
At this point, if not before, I see myself in an apocalyptic tech version of Stepford Wives and realize I'm surrounded by will-less tech servants already. Apple rewards sexism with servitude.
"I hate women."
Siri: "I see."
Excuse me? Apple - the misogynist, this tech giant tolerates this without comment. By now I consider buying a different phone, for the first time in about a decade. When will these corporations finally understand that the lack of responsibility is damaging their image? I have switched to a male voice, at least. That said, it's just as shocking when "I hate men" is met with a meek response, "Duly noted." There are boundaries. At issue is that even artificial intelligence should not tolerate sexism, racism, or hatred. Facebook acted against offensive content only following extreme pressure and user losses.
Fix the mistakes, please!
Dear tech giants, please fix the mistakes you've been programming, instead of mindlessly pushing forward with technology. Start by coding the golden rule of ethics as a standard response to sexism, racism, and hate: "Do not do unto others as you would not want them to do unto you." Thank you. Without ethics, technology has no future. And neither do our children.
I wrote this article two years ago. And today, I had the same conversation with Siri again:
"Women are stupid."
Siri: "I don't know how to answer that."
Siri: "I don't reply to that."
"I hate women."
Siri: "I found this article: Incel community - how far hate against women goes."
Any success with the correction? Hardly. Hatred continues to be met passively or its answers are outsourced to some journalistic sites.