Knowit’s aspiration to make the digital world equal

3 mins read

Many virtual assistants have a female voice. Think of pre-existing examples: Alexa, Siri, Google Assistant, Cortana or more. This might have shaped an unconscious belief of what a virtual assistant should be like. Research from Wired shows that this has been done on purpose as most tech companies have found out that people prefer it when help is delivered in a female voice.

Knowit, a digital consultancy firm made a spoof ad for one such imaginary virtual assistant. DICK, the first all-male voice assistant has been named so, by them.

A bad associate

DICK introduction isn’t any less than that of a fictional superhero. For exaggeration, the introductory visuals comprise of tech; i.e circuit boards chips with powerful vocal delivery.

DICK has been programmed to take the personality of a bad male friend. He, in purpose, is a digital assistant but refuses to do perform like one. Taking on the characteristics of a bad person, he is also intrusive and judgmental of any of his owner’s decisions.

Stereotyping

Fussing on the voice of a programmed assistant might seem frivolous when it is compared against the astronomical problems of the real world. Furthermore, the voices of all virtual assistants can be changed to a male voice in the settings of a device. However, the gender stereotyping problem in the digital problem is only a small glimpse of the bigger problem standing behind the drapes.

When we compare our past to the present with a social lens, we view it more negatively. We understand that a lot of inequalities existed because folks born before us were not enlightened about the prejudices in society. But now, with some thanks to the internet, nothing like so exists; or at least, exists on a lesser scale. It turns out that AI, which is in training thanks to humanity; can be sexist and racist.

The biases aren’t gone, just hidden, and AI’s deep neural network will pick up on those. If these, at any point in future; optimistically with safety features, are assigned in human or human-related activities; one can’t and should not expect an unbiased judgement or result from them.

By making DICK sound like a stereotypically bad boyfriend; Knowit; perhaps wanted to highlight the bias with an aspiration that humanity should not repeat the mistakes it has already made several times in its past.

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