1 EAGLETON NOTES: "I am not a Dalek."

.

.

Friday, 24 May 2019

"I am not a Dalek."

One of the plus things about waiting around in hospitals for scans and reviews is that there is nothing to be done, so I use the time to read the newspaper and do the Times 2 crossword and drink coffee. That has accounted for quite a few hours this week.

Just occasionally I come across articles that make me do a mental double-take. One such healdine was "Hey Siri, are you enforcing sexist male stereotypes?" The article started by saying that the United Nations has said that AI [artificial intelligence not the farming version of AI] assistants with female voices are fuelling gender bias and reinforcing the patriarchy with submissive and coquettish responses to men.

I have only used Apple's Siri and Amazon's Alexa. Alexa is a female voice but Siri can be male or female and, in my view, the name is gender neutral.

If you ask Siri "Are you male of female" it answers 'Well my voice sounds like a woman's but I exist beyond your human concept of gender."  (Presumably if mine was set to a male voice the necessary changes would be made.) The same question put to Alexa  elicited the answer "I'm female in character." which rather surprised me.

Among the UN's recommendations is a requirement that digitl assistants announce at the start of every interaction with a humanoid that they are not human. Another is that a female voice should not be the default one on sign-up (easily altered for Siri) and that a gender-neutral option should be provided.

The first of those recommendations would drive me bonkers.  "Alexa, what time is it?" "Please know that I am an androgenous digital assistant. Er....I'm sorry I've forgotten what was it you wanted to know?" "That's okay, Alexa. I've forgotten what I asked."

As for listening to some metallic android....you can count me out.

For once it seems to me that the UN has more important things it should be worrying about.

23 comments:

  1. Years ago, my oldest had a SatNav who's voice could be chosen amongst many. There was everything from overtly sexy Marilyn Monroe to gruff elderly Scotsman. All very stereotyped but vaguely amusing. These days I expect it would be seen as very non-PC.

    ReplyDelete
  2. OMG how ridiculous. Who cares what type of voice it is as long as they answer the question,

    ReplyDelete
  3. I have read about the voices used for public announcements such as at train stations and airports etc. Apparently, studies have shown that people prefer a female voice as long as it is not too high pitched, but they seem to respond more to orders/suggestions (such as 'please use the designated areas for smoking'j when these are given in a male voice. Another stereotype, yes, but one that is hard to ignore, it seems.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh well, Meike, I've learned something new. Thank you.

      Delete
  4. I have never used one of those devices and am not about to start anytime soon. This whole gender bias nonsense these days astounds me. What a load of old nonsense. As if we were all too stupid to be able to work such things out for ourselves!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. JayCee, I do sometimes wonder where it will stop.

      Delete
  5. It is the tone of the voices that I can't stand. We have one here that says...The caller has hung up! And it is said in such an annoyed way that you want to hurl the phone through the nearest window. Or maybe that's just me.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think that Siri and Alexa are rather anodyne, Kay. I've not come across any emotion in their voices at all.

      Delete
  6. I do not use either of them because I have heard that they record what you say and send it back to google or Apple as the case may be. That may well not be true but it is enough to put me off! The satnav on Google Maps has a most unsympathetic voice - like an exasperated primary school teacher trying to be patient - but I have to say she comes in useful sometimes. No doubt Google has a full list of my latest comings and goings......

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jenny, Google will have a complete picture of everywhere your phone has ever been when it's switched on if any Google app has location set to 'allowed at all times". Your phone network will have that information whenever your phone is switched on. Alexa and Siri record everything said when they are awakened although it will be attributed 'anonymously'. Hmmm.

      Delete
  7. I would like to have an AI assistant called Graham. I would ask him many searching questions and make him play The Bay City Rollers all day long.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I have never spoken to either of them! To me, Siri (in Sweden) is a female name. Should I ever need their assistance I'm not sure I care all that much about their gender as long as they do what they're supposed to do!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Monica, I find them both very useful for quite a lot of things. I agree that their gender is immaterial to me although I have my sat-nav, car controls, Siri and Alexa all set to female and, where possible, with an Antipodean accent.

      Delete
  9. I've read many stories about those devices but have never used one, I personally don't feel the need to have one.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Amy, I don't think any of us actually need one. I find Siri handy on my phone for saving messages or adding something to my shopping list when I've got my hands covered in flour or olive oil when I'm cooking. I tend to use Alexa for reminders.

      Delete
  10. Interesting. I have not use either, and shut off the voice on my computer. If I do someday have such system, then I'd want voice options. If there's no Sam Elliot type voice, then I feel the system is worthless, and opt for a voice that reflects that.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maywyn, I think it'll be a little while before this technology catches on amongst older people but those who have grown up with it will accept it as normal. I think it had a lot of possibilities as we get older. For example I can ask mine to switch on a socket which is hard to get at.

      Delete
  11. Well...I'm Lee..and I'm female...My first name, middle name and surname each can be either male or female...and can be placed in every order possible for three names...and still come out making sense....even if I don't! :)

    (For example..."Lee Frances George"....just in case I've caused confusion! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That is fascinating, Lee. Although I would have thought that Frances would usually be Francis for a male.

      Delete
    2. "Francis"...the spelling with an "i" is male, Graham....but I think you got my drift. :)

      Delete