Voice Assistants Are Victims Of The Patriarchy

Mockarena, Co-Founder

My mom sent me this from the WSJ the other day, and you guys, there are simply not enough eyerolls.

If that’s too little to read, here’s the full text:

The revelation about this digital plot for male dominance comes in a 146-page report from the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) in cooperation with the German government and the EQUALS Skills Coalition, a partnership of governments, businesses and nonprofits.

The authors note with alarm that “most leading voice assistants are exclusively female or female by default, both in name and in sound of voice.” This includes Siri, Amazon’s Alexa, and Microsoft ’s Cortana. The report says that these voices send “a signal that women are obliging, docile, eager-to-please helpers, available at the touch of a button or with a blunt voice command like ‘hey’ or ‘OK.’” Read on, they’re rolling.

If you tell Cortana she’s hot, the report frets, she’ll quip that “beauty is in the photoreceptors of the beholder.” Digital assistants “greet verbal abuse with catch-me-if-you-can flirtation” and “give deflecting, lacklustre, or apologetic responses to verbal sexual harassment,” the report says. This response fails “to encourage or model, let alone insist on, healthy communications about sex or sexual consent.”

The report identifies still more signs of digital oppression: “The assistant holds no power of agency beyond what the commander asks of it. It honours commands and responds to queries regardless of their tone or hostility.” This reinforces “gender biases that women are subservient and tolerant of poor treatment.”

All of this is apparently a symptom of a lack of women in tech jobs. The U.N. wants countries to redress this with a combination of compulsory tech education for women, gender quotas in tech industries, and (of course) government funding. The tech firms behind these voice assistants are some of the most politically correct places on the planet, so we confess some amusement to see them called out as sexist. Perhaps Sheryl Sandberg will lean-in to make Facebook ’s voice assistant male.

Appeared in the May 30, 2019, print edition.

Imagine for a moment what sort of miserable seahag you have to be to even come up with that sort of nonsense.

I love the part where there’s angst over the fact that female voice assistants don’t “insist on, healthy communications about sex or sexual consent.” Because that’s what we all want, right? We want lectures about sexual consent from freaking ALEXA.

Hey weirdo UN people who contributed to this pile of garbage – the reason that voice assistants “hold no power of agency” and “respond to queries regardless of their tone or hostility” is because they’re FREAKING MACHINES. If I want to tell Alexa to f*ck off because I’m in a foul mood, the last thing I want Alexa to do is lecture me about appropriate communications. Alexa doesn’t have agency because Alexa IS NOT HUMAN.

I can’t believe this requires explanation, but this is 2019, so….

The worst part is in that final paragraph though – where it talks about the UN wanting countries to fix the lack of women in tech with “a combination of compulsory tech education for women, gender quotas in tech industries, and (of course) government funding. “

Perfect. That seems super logical – let’s FORCE women to study tech even if they don’t want to. That’ll give them agency, amirite?

SO MANY EYEROLLS.