The fantasy of an obedient female robot is disturbingby Kathleen Richardson / February 14, 2017 / Leave a comment
At a robotics conference in 2015, I was surprised to hear a presenter argue that the sci-fi film Ex Machina was a “love story.” Ex Machina is about a wealthy programmer who builds a robot woman and invites his employee to take the Turing Test—which tests whether he can tell the difference between a human and a machine. The robot woman is locked in a room and cannot leave voluntarily. Her “rescuer” only wants to help her because he is sexually attracted to her. Rather than being a “love story,” Ex Machina is really about domestic violence and sexual objectification, though evidently not all people think that.
There is a huge problem in the robotics and AI fields regarding its representation of women. Outside the lab, men are routinely encouraged through pornography, prostitution and popular culture to view women as sexual objects. In turn male technologists do not produce neutral technologies, but ones that are shaped by their privileges and preferences. At the same conference, another male presenter used the image of a 1972 Playboy centerfold to illustrate vision processing.
Enter the sex robots—a further extension of this dehumanised idea of women. With sex dolls, women are reduced to their sexual attractiveness. Just as in Playboy, a woman is presented as a tool for narcissistic gratification. That’s why I founded the Campaign Against Sex Robots to draw attention to the sexual objectification of women in AI and robotics.
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