Women in AI

A brief speech written as part of a public speaking training session.

Women in AI

Why are all our voice assistance devices female? A call to action for women everywhere to break into the field of machine learning.

Siri. Alexa. Cortana. Google. PAUSE

All well known personal voice assistance devices. PAUSE

All created by powerful tech companies run mostly by men. PAUSE

All operating with female voices. PAUSE

In Silicon Valley, where we have been reminded recently of how male-dominated and notoriously sexist the tech industry is, the developers of these devices still believe it makes sense for digital servants to sound like women.

This brings up a larger issue at hand because this idea of a digital assistant is actually a popular application within the field of artificial intelligence.

It was seen as far back as 1968 in the popular film โ€œ2001: The Space Odysseyโ€ with the HAL 9000. PAUSE

In this movie, AI has been deployed in such an unethical way that the autonomous system HAL has no actual empathy for the human beings it interacts with and believes itself to be foolproof and free of error. But human beings are not foolproof.

We are flawed and we are biased creatures.

And the biases we posses will pass on to the machines that we help create.

In todayโ€™s day and age, AI is already positioned to make a profound impact and touch every aspect of our lives.

But if we donโ€™t have enough women and people of color involved in creating these superior systems, we will be SURROUNDED by HAL 9000s.

And when we realize we messed up as a society, it will be TOO LATE.

So as a woman of color, I need us all in this room to recognize and appreciate this potential dystopian scenario.

Because if nobody recognizes it, we can never ensure that AI is representative of all its users.