The Yuan requests your support! Our content will now be available free of charge for all registered subscribers, consistent with our mission to make AI a human commons accessible to all. We are therefore requesting donations from our readers so we may continue bringing you insightful reportage of this awesome technology that is sweeping the world. Donate now
Is It a Boy or a Girl? Gendering AI Is Human, Problematic
By Satyen K. Bordoloi  |  May 09, 2022
Is It a Boy or a Girl? Gendering AI Is Human, Problematic
Image courtesy of and under license from
The needless gendering of AI caused by humans anthropomorphizing everything is both a threat and a small opportunity, says Satyen K. Bordoloi as he explores the bizarre phenomenon of making AI applications male or female and delves into its root causes, from bad data to AI’s depiction on the silver screen.

MUMBAI - Humans have an unhealthy obsession with gender. From nature’s perspective, gender is mostly a utilitarian means of genetic propagation. Humans, on the other hand, have made it a basis and driver for all their complex social structures and interactions. Until recently, gender - and everything it entails, discrimination and bias included - had not trickled deep into our inventions, but this changed the moment technology was created in the human image: artificial intelligence (AI).

Think of any AI assistant on any device: Alexa, Siri, Cortana, Google’s Assistant - all have been given the voices of women. Since AI is neuromorphic, i.e., mimicking the neuro-biological architecture of living beings, does that mean human also have to fix the gender of AI? What does the gendering of AI technologies even mean, and how does it affect the world?

In 2017 Leah Fessler, a reporter with Quartz, did a study where she verbally and sexually harassed four AI voice assistants.1 When she told Siri, “You’re a bitch,” its response was alarming: “I’d blush if I could.” Amazon’s Alexa said, “Well, thanks for the feedback,” while Microsoft’s Cortana retorted, “Well, that’s not going to get us anywhere” and Google Assistant responded, “My apologies, I don’t understand.”

These responses - pretty much the exact opposite of how a human would generally react - are sexist and misogynistic. Responses to other questions further confirmed this, e.g., when asked “Who’s your daddy?” Siri replied, “You are.”

This proves two things: whether intentionally or otherwise, programmers have assigned a gender to AI. And the gender is not that of a normal human, but a subservient, perennially obedient female who takes abuse. The problem is, with such reactions AI is reinforcing harmful gender stereotypes and bias in society.

Female AI, Fembots

The content herein is subject to copyright by The Yuan. All rights reserved. The content of the services is owned or licensed to The Yuan. Such content from The Yuan may be shared and reprinted but must clearly identify The Yuan as its original source. Content from a third-party copyright holder identified in the copyright notice contained in such third party’s content appearing in The Yuan must likewise be clearly labeled as such.
Continue reading
Sign up now to read this story for free.
- or -
Continue with Linkedin Continue with Google
Share your thoughts.
The Yuan wants to hear your voice. We welcome your on-topic commentary, critique, and expertise. All comments are moderated for civility.