Why we desperately need women to design AI
Kate Brodock
4.1K55

I think you are right with your general statement, that there should be more women building AI, but it’s also true in the field of design, where we noticed who important diversity is as well.

But I think the quote “Siri, Alexa, Cortana, and Google Home have women’s voices because women’s voices make more money. Yes, Silicon Valley is male-dominated and notoriously sexist, but this phenomenon runs deeper than that. Bot creators are primarily driven by predicted market success, which depends on customer satisfaction — and customers like their digital servants to sound like women.” seems a little bit provocative, as at least Siri has a male voice as well, that, by the way was shown of at WWDC 2017 and is surprisingly often enabled during youtube reviews. Furthermore, I don’t fully understand how a female Siri voice makes more money, as for example this article indicates, ok, it’s not a scientistic study, but not uninteresting, why people buy iPhones, Siri is none of these.

I’d say, maybe the user should choose which voice to use during the first setup, on the other hand, it seems like the vast majority of users prefer female voices (http://edition.cnn.com/2011/10/21/tech/innovation/female-computer-voices/index.html), therefore it’s understandable (while not necessarily good) why it’s not done. While this article is from 2011, I think it comes up with one very interesting point: “Most such decisions are probably the result of market research[…]” This means, that it is not necessarily a lack of women developers, but a general demand in the population (of course this doesn’t change my opinion, that there should/must be more female developers).

Another two studies revealed even more information about the users of voice assistants:

“And MacDorman also discovered after further testing that women had a ‘stronger implicit preference for the female voice’, reported Joanna Stern with WSJ, and men did not have an implicit preference to either male or female voices.”

“According to Clifford Nass, a professor at Stanford University in the US, research has shown that iPhone fans may trust male Siri’s answers more than those that come from his female counterpart.”

“Nass, who studies people’s interaction with technology, said: ‘Female voices are seen, on average, as less intelligent than male voices.”

(http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-4258122/Experts-reveal-voice-assistants-female-voices.html)

The first quote shows, that it’s not sexism that comes from only or even primarily from men, while the second and third quote show (I don’t know if there is a difference between men and women there), that there is an inherent bias anchored in society, not only in tech.

Therefore I don’t think it’s only a lack of female engineers, but also a question of consumers’ demands and companies primarily do their best to comply these.

It’s maybe an interesting question if companies should try to change it, as this wouldn’t be a decision made by the users, but by a small “elite”, promoting their ideologies, not to democratic.

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