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How do we design laws and policies to navigate artificial intelligence away from a paradigm where service and sex robots are female while security robots are male, asks Mahima Garg.

ARTIFICIAL intelligence (AI) works on the assumption that computers can be programmed to carry out any task performed by a human, like you and me, something as simple as writing this article, merely by studying and replicating the human intellect.

However, besides being intelligent, Homo sapiens are also emotionally-manifested beings. Therefore, an ability to express and interpret emotions could make computers smarter and more human-like.

With advancements in AI, several characteristics of humans have been incorporated into robots. As a result, humans have started communicating with AI in the same manner as they do with each other. People are becoming more dependent on artificially intelligent bots like Alexa and Google Home. This technological advancement brings with it the challenges of gender bias as it absorbs the cultural norms of the society of its designers.

Besides being intelligent, Homo sapiens are also emotionally-manifested beings.

In and by itself, AI, does not have a gender. It is primarily a series of numbers that cannot take on the traits of any gender the way a human can.

Yet, gender imbalance is a critical issue in the realm of AI. To illustrate, it has been observed that a majority of service and sex robots are female while a majority of security robots are male.

Female AI is presumed to be more dependable, compassionate and equipped to satisfy specific needs. AI is trying to humanise robots by instilling feminist traits and aiming for acceptance in a robotic society dominated by men because feminising robots increases their marketability.

Most digital assistants these days provide an option to choose between a male and female voice, however, a majority of their marketing gives the female voices the limelight.

Also read: The Devil’s Dictionary of Gender and Law

Eliminating gender from speech is a good place to start, but it does not take gender out of people’s interactions with these technologies. Voice assistants like Alexa, Cortana and Siri are viewed as feminine, because of which people do not hesitate to abuse or make sexualised remarks about them.

These assistants have gradually been prepared to respond to important questions and divert absurd ones. The tasks that these AI assistants and their ancestors have been performing, such as scheduling and reminding appointments, providing reading material for the commute, updating shopping lists and keeping an eye on the timer on the oven, are all associated with specific genders.

Since gender has no bearing on a robot’s functionality or performance, gendering AI robots is of no good and is in fact problematic. Living with AI robots may become more appealing to people as a result of evolving lifestyles and growing difficulties and complexities in interpersonal relationships. Humans may turn to robots to avoid the problems associated with living a protein-based lifestyle due to their increasing cost.

The world will never make progress if these machines perform tasks that have historically been performed by women and if their labour is still seen as inferior and the assistant is treated with contempt.

Even though AI is becoming indispensable in our daily lives, there are currently no industry-wide guidelines based on the humanisation of AI.

As a result, we should consider developing and putting into effect industry-wide guidelines based on the representation of gender in AI.

Businesses could create AI that is more inclusive and gender-balanced if we had such standards in place.

We need the active participation of AI developers in the creation of these new industry standards, and there should be diversity in terms of gender identity, sexual orientation, race and ethnicity within this group.

We can choose to employ more sophisticated machine learning advancements and have more candid conversations about gender representation in voice automation.

Also read: India’s quest for a workable AI legislation

In the years to come, technology might turn into the physical embodiment of male power because women make up a morsel of the workforce in this field. In 2019, UNESCO published a striking report I’d blush if I could, which recorded only 12 percent of AI researchers and 6 percent of professional software developers as women.

In and by itself, AI, does not have a gender. It is primarily a series of numbers that cannot take on the traits of any gender the way a human can.

As AI becomes more extensively and pervasively used across numerous industries, job losses, that are already occurring in occupations such as finance staff, retail clerks, and administrative assistants, may shoot up.

Women without college degrees will bear the brunt of AI-induced job losses, as they predominately hold entry-level positions that are most likely to be impacted by automation.

The effect of AI and new technologies on the personal security of women has been another major concern in this digital era. Women have always been the sweet target of criminals, with some of the worst offenses typically having a specific gender connection. Their long-standing fears about crime now include a digital component.

As technology is used more frequently, crime has migrated online. According to law enforcement agencies, there has been a noticeable rise in identity theft, online financial fraud and harassment.

There are already issues with ‘revenge porn’ and ‘deep fake’ which usually target women. Not only prominent women but also young girls have been shamed in certain instances by having their heads placed on nude bodies giving them a tough time in their personal development.

Retaining these women in the tech industry is crucial since it promotes the industry’s efforts to diversify. Gender pay disparities, sexual discrimination, a male-dominated workplace culture and a dearth of role models in senior positions are the primary causes of women quitting their jobs in AI.

Diversifying company cultures and looking at the number of women hired into senior positions are crucial steps that organisations can take to increase the number of women who remain in data science jobs.

Also read: Does artificial intelligence need a constitution of its own?

A workforce policy to support gender equity is the need of the hour. Women are always juggling between their domestic responsibilities and professional expectations. We must ensure that the adoption of AI and the shift to a digital economy do not lead to a rise in economic instability.

Prioritising equity should be a top concern for all government employees as well as those in the technology sector.

It is widely believed that young girls’ lack of interest in pursuing careers in information technology (IT) at school is the main cause of the gender gap in technology.

This is due to a combination of the industry’s bad reputation and the education gap, as girls are not encouraged to pursue STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields as a potential career path.

This also applies to AI, where many female students believe that science and mathematics, two essential proficiencies in the field, are only for boys.

Unfortunately, there will probably always be a skills gap in AI and data science positions until issues such as early STEM education and gender bias and discrimination at work are addressed.

Voice assistants like Alexa, Cortana and Siri are viewed as feminine, because of which people do not hesitate to abuse or make sexualised remarks about them.

With their diverse backgrounds, creative ideas and perseverance, women are essential to changing the work done in the industry. Women have the power to transform the way we live and work in the future by dispelling myths about the field and fostering a more inclusive culture.

Viewing the light at the end of the tunnel, AI has the potential to elevate women, give them value and make them more visible. Women need to seize this chance as AI tends to enhance rather than replace human activity.

The introduction of AI in the workplace has ushered in a period of adjustment, as it does with every automation age. This can be accomplished by raising your educational bar and developing your AI skills and your higher-order cognitive abilities.

Also read: The possibilities and pitfalls of ChatGPT

In due course of time, flexibility and creativity would be everyone’s dearest weapons.

The issue of gendered AI algorithms is a hidden bias in AI that needs to be addressed on an immediate basis or else algorithms will continue to utilise biased historical data.

Humans are biased, not algorithms, and it is our duty to ensure that AI systems do not reinforce human biases.

Artificial intelligence is going to change the world at a rate never seen before. With the help of AI, we will be able to automate the tasks we dislike doing and change our habits.

The issue of gendered AI algorithms is a hidden bias in AI that needs to be addressed on an immediate basis or else algorithms will continue to utilise biased historical data.

However, we must involve everyone. Diversity needs to be a strategic priority for organisations contrary to the ‘Matilda effect’, which refers to the propensity for women’s contributions to science to be disregarded, minimised or credited to male co-workers, spouses, fathers, brothers, etc.

The more varied our minds are from the start, the better. Without a varied team which is more creative and approaches the issue from a different perspective, the world will be at risk of developing new technologies which fail to meet the needs of half of the population.

Innovative, novel and game-changing ideas, education at every doorstep and inclusive technologies can play a significant role in fighting the marginalisation of and worldwide prejudice against women.