Have you noticed that artificial intelligence applications you interact with, such as Google Now, Siri, and Cortana, are female? That’s not a coincidence. There are several reasons:
- Karl Fredric MacDorman, a computer scientist and expert in human-computer interaction at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis, attributes the “female” AI to the gender of the AI technologists that develop the applications. Men dominate the field of artificial intelligence research and application.
- Kathleen Richardson, a social anthropologist, claims that female AI is less threatening than male AI, thus more appealing.
- Debbie Grattan, a veteran voice over artist for brands like Apple, Samsung, and Wal-Mart, claims, “Because females tend to be the more nurturing gender by nature, their voices are often perceived as a helper, more compassionate, understanding, and non-threatening.”
Stanford University Professor Clifford Nass, author of “The Man Who Lied to His Laptop: What Machines Teach Us About Human Relationships,” argues, “It’s much easier to find a female voice that everyone likes than a male voice that everyone likes.” Nass adds, “It’s a well-established phenomenon that the human brain is developed to like female voices.”
There is little doubt that the gender of choice for AI interactions with humans is female. However, you may ask, “What about the Terminator movie?” The Terminator was male. Why? The answer is to make the “Terminator” more threatening a male persona was chosen. This makes an important point. Selection of the AI voice is context sensitive. Although, male voices can come across more threatening, they also come across with more authority. This suggests that robotic police officers are likely to be “male.”
A lot of AI applications have no voice. This is especially true of military applications of AI, including United States Air Force drones and Navy torpedoes. Even some consumer AI applications find no need for a voice, such as the “popcorn” setting on your microwave.
The bottom line is simple. AI applications that seek to interact with humans in a friendly helpful manner tend to have a female voice. AI applications that want to “speak” with authority will typically have a male voice. However, many AI applications, including those that kill humans, are voiceless.