“An AI can be thought of as related to a toaster: a machine needs no gender.”
I’d like us to take a moment to reflect on the above comment made by a university student in reading[i]. The student envisions an AI that transcends gender. An AI that operates beyond sexual paradigms and is free of the boundaries of sexual and racial difference. Tech pioneers and tech transhumanists defend not only the latter but argue that AI will overcome the biological body. In fact, a ‘mental uploading’ of some sort will see the conscious mind transferred to a non-biological substrate[ii]. This said, almost all virtual voice assistants (i.e. Siri, Cortana, Alexa), holographic (i.e. Azuma Hikari) and humanoid robots (i.e. Sophia) are feminised in name, voice and body.
An article titled ‘Life with My Robot Secretary’ describes the virtual office assistant Clara as “making you feel like a total boss”[i]. It doesn’t take a genius to understand that gendered technologies reinforce harmful gender stereotypes; with feminized assistants underlining that women are better suited for administrative and assistant-type jobs. But in case it does, Nass and Moon’s[ii] experimental study demonstrated that humans relate to technology adhering to social rules and internalising expectations and bias. Thus, if Clara mis-schedules a business meeting one would complain about “her” incapability or lack of competences. If Siri is activated by mistake one may well call her a “stupid bitch”. Not only would linguistic associations harm but the physical embodiment of a gender by technology would continue to associate submissiveness and domestic tasks with women. If you don’t believe see[iii] Japan’s version of Amazon Echo, designed for Japanese young men that feel lonely and want a home-assistant and virtual girlfriend.
But what if humans want gendered AI? Some studies have proven that gendered AI enhances – if not facilitates – the socialisation between humans and machines[iv]. For instance, female and higher-pitched voices are considered more ‘soothing’ in comparison to male and lower-pitched voices, which are perceived as more aggressive. The truth may well be that gender, in its cultural apotheosis, is valuable for humans. Nonetheless, if machines embody the binaries female/male they may well begin embodying the black/male binary. They may well produce transgender and queer AI. All in the name of “facilitating” socialization.
As a society it will be our responsibility to control the subconscious biases that gendered and racial AI’s will propagate. I would argue that trustworthiness is not a high-pitched voice, nor a lower-pitched voice. I would argue that these mental short-cuts have to be fought and that AI does not need to be a direct reflection of society and all the injustices in it. I would propose that AI transcend gender and race and become an entity in and of itself. Genderless technology could be the catalyst that aids humanity’s lousy propensity to prejudices.
 Ferrando, F., 2014. Is the post-human a post-woman? Cyborgs, robots, artificial intelligence and the futures of gender: a case study. European Journal of Futures Research, 2(1), pp.1-17.
 Moravec, H., 1988. Mind children : the future of robot and human intelligence. Cambridge, Mass. ; London: Cambridge, Mass. ; London : Harvard University Press. And Minsky, M., 1986. The society of mind. New York: New York : Simon and Schuster.
 Wilson, M., 2015. Life With My Robot Secretary [Online]. Fast Company. Available from: https://www.fastcompany.com/3052646/life-with-my-robot-secretary [Accessed April 5th 2019]
 Nass, C. and Moon, Y., 2000. Machines and Mindlessness: Social Responses to Computers. Journal of Social Issues, 56(1), pp.81-103.
 McNeil, J., 2015. Why Do I Have to Call this App ‘Julie’? [Online]. The New York Times. Available from: https://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/20/opinion/sunday/why-do-i-have-to-call-this-app-julie.html [Accessed March 24th 2019]