Is artificial intelligence sexist?
Judging by their voices, Alexa and Siri are women. So is Viv, another AI assistant recently acquired by Samsung. Google Assistant doesn’t have a human name, but also uses a female voice. Cortana, by Microsoft, is named after a busty hologram in the video game series Halo, and before it was released, Facebook’s text-based assistant “M” was allegedly referred to within the company as Moneypenny, after the MI6 secretary who enjoyed a flirtatious rapport with James Bond. Some technologists argue that women’s voices are used because they are statistically proven to be more pleasing than men’s, helping put users at ease with talking to a computer. But other critics see damaging gender stereotypes making the jump to computer code. “When you think of an assistant, you tend to think of their voice as female,” says Michelle Habell-Pallán, an associate professor in gender studies at the University of Washington. “So that’s no accident.”