I am becoming increasingly frustrated and concerned with the number of subtle references to women and societal bias being incorporated in technology. Of course, I don’t blame the physical technology, as its only reflecting the current culture and the time the creators are living in- however its affect far surpasses that realm. Artwork, for example, can be utilized as landmarks of history, representing the perspective of an artist during any specific time period. But art was not, and is not, something the majority of the population spends countless hours a day staring at, something they can have verbal conversations with while driving, art does not text for people or schedule their meetings. Technology has become so prevalent and so intertwined with our everyday that even its smallest notes in an operation system, such as iOS, can send ripples through the way we think. Having Siri begin as a female assistant, everyone having their very own “Siri” to solve all their problems is problematic. I believe there are now options to change Siri’s voice or accent to whatever you’d like, but Siri’s settings are preset to feminine for all systems. Amazon’s “Alexa,” Microsoft’s “Cortana,” and even the nameless Google assistant has a female’s voice- the voice of the system’s “coach” from Black Mirror’s Hang the DJ episode was female, too. To be honest, I hadn’t noticed this reoccurring feminine theme until reading this article- but having seen the trend, I googled “assistant” and the results are overwhelmingly female. In fact, while all the females were happy to be assisting, the males were incredibly unhappy to be in that position. This goes back to problems within an algorithm, or better said: problems in society that are reflected in an algorithm. I google “boss” just to check… all male (granted a good number of the results are for the movie Boss Baby, which in retrospect has no reason to not feature a female lead). I google “business boss” while the first result is an image of a female, she looks overwhelmed by the number of papers and holds her head down towards her desk. “Remedy your Busy Business Boss Problems” is the caption alongside it. The rest are men displaying the same confidence and satisfaction held by the women who were portrayed as assistants.
To condense and clarify what became a bit of a rant, I am not faulting the nature of algorithms- I am only pointing out their danger. While society’s biases are the true culprit, by failing to eliminate these biases in our creation of algorithms and development of new technology, we are amplifying and perpetuating the errors in our understanding of the world around us.