Helen A'Loy and other tales of female automata: a gendered reading of the narratives of hopes and fears of intelligent machines and artificial intelligence

SOURCE: AI & Society: Journal of Knowledge, Culture and Communication
OUTPUT TYPE: Journal Article
DEPARTMENT: Impact Centre (IC), Impact Centre (PRESS), Impact Centre (CC)
Print: HSRC Library: shelf number 11027
HANDLE: 20.500.11910/14956
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/20.500.11910/14956

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The imaginative context in which artificial intelligence (AI) is embedded remains a crucial touchstone from which to understand and critique both the histories and prospective futures of an AI-driven world. A recent article from Cave and Dihal sets out a narrative schema of four hopes and four corresponding fears associated with intelligent machines and AI. This article seeks to respond to the work of Cave and Dihal by presenting a gendered reading of this schema of hopes and fears. The author offers a brief genealogy of narratives which feature female automata, before turning to examine how gendered technology today particularly AI assistants like Siri and Alexa reproduces the historical narratives associated with intelligent machines in new ways. Through a gendered reading of the hopes and fears associated with AI, two key responses arise. First, that the affective reactions to intelligent machines cannot be readily separated where such machines are gendered female. And second, that the gendering of AI technologies today can be understood as an attempt to reconcile the opposing hopes and fears AI produces, and that this reconciliation is based on the association of such technologies with traditional notions of femininity. Critically, a gendered reading enables us to problematize the narratives associated with AI and expose the power asymmetries that lie within, and the technologies which arise out of, such narratives.