Techie Reads

I’ll be posting here about interesting companies and articles I’ve read related to health and technology, specifically related to women’s health & hospital at home.

When Will AI Bots and Voice Assistants Become Feminist?

How did handpicked responses by the Google, Apple, Amazon teams end up with voice bot responding "I'd blush if I could" to "You're a slut" or "You're a bitch"? Why is the fact that only 20% of AI workers female concerning?

Specifically in healthcare, where 80%+ of household health decisions and interactions are made by women, women are the core users of any healthcare AI app/bot/technology. Making teams diverse and thinking about the values we want our bots to embody is important as AI is slowly becoming more deeply intertwined into our lives. Our interactions with bots have cultural and societal implications, as the way we speak with our female voice assistants, and the way they speak with us, influence our behavior with others. To put things in perspective, by 2050 it's predicted that 50% of searches will be made by voice...

How to Code a Feminist Alexa Workshop (Feminist Internet): Feminist Internet is on a mission to make the internet a more equal space and is working to prevent biases from creeping into AI. Check out their great workshop package. It runs through all the steps (from GitHub, Trinket, Amazon Developer to AWS Lambda) to get a non-developer crowd to be able to think and add Feminist Internet responses to questions and statements said to Alexa. You can also check out F'xa, Feminist Internet's chat bot as well as their Personal Intelligent Assistant (PIA) Standards. A great document to review before continuing to design your bot to improve it and make sure it’s not perpetrating gender inequality.

Why are our voice assistants all female? (WIRED): Ever given some thought to why all the famous bots (Siri, Alexa, Cortana, Google Assistant) have female voices? Apparently a good voice user interface is one that doesn't draw attention to itself, and women's voices are more likely to fit this description, be warmer and appeal to both men and women. Hopefully as teams start to become more diverse this norm will start to dissipate and different voices will be used for different scenarios. The first big Voice Assistant to break this mold? The Alibaba voice assistant, AliGenie, speaks in a cartoonish voice. (More details on AliGenie on page 102 of this UNESCO report).

How interactions with Voice Assistants can Normalize Sexual Harassment (The Next Web): According to The Next Web, "Despite the under-representation of women in AI development, voice assistants are almost female by default with feminine names and voices, thereby fueling gender bias." Although at least 5% of the interactions with voice assistants are sexually explicit, assistants’ responses are flirty and jokey, reinforcing stereotypes about women being pleasant, unassertive and subservient. They also tend to respond less provocatively to women's sexual comments compared to men's comments (for example, Siri will respond "Oooh!" to a male's request for a sexual favor but “That’s not nice” to a woman's request.) Quartz tested out how bots respond to sexual harassment, but it turns out they don't respond so well.

Netta Levran