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Siri and Her Girls: Why So Many Robot Helpers Are Ladies – Rebecca J. Rosen – Technology – The Atlantic

with one comment

Siri, Apple’s just-released digital personal assistant, may be an artificial personality born of lines of code, but she is also very much a lady, judged by her voice.

In very general terms, robots tend to fall into one of the three categories of male-identified, masculine-seeming, or just androgynous. But there is one genre of AI that tilts the other way, that tends to be female: the disembodied voice. The rough rule seems to be that corporeal inventions are male — particularly if they are killing someone, either on screen or in the military — and the non-corporeal are female (although there are plenty of exceptions, notably, Rosie, the Jetson’s maid, who, it bears repeating, was a maid).

You’re probably familiar with a few of these “ladies”: the default voice on most GPS systems, the computer that guides you around your voicemail, Julie the Amtrak lady. These “women” assist you in your planning, help you find what you’re looking for, and, in the case of the GPS, keep you calm when you’re lost. They perform, to put it bluntly, women’s work. They don’t need bodies to do it — they aren’t hot or sexy like the cultural trope of the steamy secretary — but they aren’t cunning either, like HAL 9000. They are brains without bodies, but also without minds of their own.

Siri’s role fits in nicely with these themes: she’ll book your appointments, check the weather for you, remind you to pick up something at the store. These are classic personal-secretary tasks, and somewhere around 97 percent of all secretaries in America are of the female persuasion. She can be a little saucy, but just a little. (Interestingly, Siri is not a lady all around the world. Her British self is a man; her Australian self is a woman. Feel free to float your own theories about that. I’m going to focus on the American Siri, and confine my thoughts to robot gender on this side of the Atlantic.

via Siri and Her Girls: Why So Many Robot Helpers Are Ladies – Rebecca J. Rosen – Technology – The Atlantic.

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Written by edparnell

November 17, 2011 at 5:37 am

Posted in Products, Tech

One Response

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  1. What about toyboy robots then?

    Rosie Scribblah

    November 17, 2011 at 7:39 pm


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