AI & GENDER: A MAXUS SURVEY

[ This is an extension of a piece written in the report: Conversation: AI, Chatbots & the New Consumer Connection. In the report, we explore new ways brands are working with AI in conversational and commercial applications. We created this post to be updated regularly with new findings. ]

Maxus AI Gender Index: A Semi-Serious Survey

For ongoing analysis of the gender assignment of frequently-released human-like AI products, Maxus is conducting a study of gender & industry classification.

Current findings (15 June 2016)

  • 56% of gendered AI agents are female
  • 100% of law bots are male
  • A majority of finance agents are male
  • We already track at least two Lucys, two Avas and two Evas. Awkward!
  • Stefan is repping for the boys in fashion/shopping.
  • Bernie, a name that in USA conjures a certain image, has a job as AI dating coach that can help your Tinder game

Source: Maxus AI/Bot Gender List

Study Notes

  • It's evolving & incomplete. Roughly two AI products are released per week (ProductHunt, TechCrunch) so we'll follow through 2016 to see how trends change.
  • We've compiled a spreadsheet of current AI agents (assistant or bot products that use human-like names or identities). Please help us find and assess new bots as they come online by adding comments to the sheet
  • Gender classification is obviously speculative. We've used our best guess on the general impression of the product identity, including:
    • Explicit mentions of gender by founders
    • Avatar images, illustrations or representations
    • Majority mentions in media inferring a classification
  • Industry classification e.g Legal, Shopping, Dating is based on initial impressions
  • We'll keep these charts updated as the spreadsheet grows and changes

AI, Gender and Brands: Background for the Study

Who are our new AI companions? Human-like technology, conversing and operating via voice, chat or email, is here. There are AI assistants, bots and other human-like agents being created and launched each week. How we identify them, and with them, will be important.

AI and Gender

A lot has been written* exploring gender stereotypes playing out in the naming of AI assistants. Certainly, the most popular brands of AI Assistants, by far, have been gendered female: Apple Siri, Amazon Alexa, Microsoft Cortana, plus Viv, Amy, Clara and Ava.

So what are we to understand from the prevalence of female characters? If we understand AI agents to be massively capable super-human intelligences, it's a good step for representations of women in technology and business. If we consider these agents anything otherwise, it raises questions in an age where diversity, equality and inclusion is finally at the forefront of discussion.

Brands are singular representations. A lot is involved in devising a brand and AI assistants are branded products, after all. They represent their creators' promise and values. But also, we're excited about AI because it's human-like technology. In no way does 'hiring' a minority AI match work in diversifying real human workforces. But AI is supposed to be representative. What will brands choose to represent?

These human-centric challenges around AI give brands the opportunity to extend ongoing work in correcting diversity and inclusion issues.

How brands are dealing with identity and AI

Brands should give customers a choice of whether they work with a male, female, minority, non-human AI agent. Creators can offer a variety of agent archetypes that better represent the spectrum of people in that role: law, finance, technology, big data, office management, sports commentary, journalism, shopping, transport, fashion and beauty.

X.ai, the AI startup trying to solve meeting scheduling, introduced "Andrew" soon after "Amy". CEO Dennis Mortensen doesn't give details on what percentage of early adopters choose each gender for their assistant. Anecdotally, I've heard of one person that hired the Andrew.

Facebook M was reportedly originally codenamed "Moneypenny", after the eternally youthful (and patient) James Bond secretary, but was later renamed the gender-neutral M. M may recall a Dame Judi Dench, Ralph Fiennes or for vintage fans Bernard Lee.

Google's Assistant is simply "Assistant" - no doubt drawing on their brand cache as an oracle of knowledge and power

FOOTNOTES

  • http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2016/03/why-do-so-many-digital-assistants-have-feminine-names/475884/
  • http://www.theestablishment.co/2016/04/27/when-robots-are-an-instrument-of-male-desire/
  • https://www.imperica.com/en/viewpoint/not-just-a-pretty-robot-gendered-robots-and-female-personal-assistants
  • http://qz.com/452804/ugh-another-virtual-assistant-with-a-female-name/
  • http://motherboard.vice.com/read/digital-assistants-get-womens-namesunless-theyre-lawyers