Women and Technology (III): Robots Can Have No Gender, but Relationship Technology Is Inseparable Fr

Every time I write about women's issues, the backstage will receive a similar message: How dare I write such a sensitive topic

It is only a simple discussion of what women have done and can do in the field of science and technology, but the new and old hatred between men and women in terms of gender is inevitable. Ben Hu is very tired. Sometimes he thinks, is there a Utopia of equality in the world from the beginning? For example, robots?

As a piece of "white paper" created by human beings, robots initially had no gender traces - they were composed of metal, plastic and silicon. However, as humanoid robots began to enter the society, they were endowed with gender by human beings, which naturally also includes the gender stereotypes in the real society.

For example, voice assistants such as Siri default to female voices to make them more "friendly"; Express delivery or security robots have a tough shape closer to men and appear more "powerful".

In this way, will the robot workplace inevitably copy the gender bias of human workplace? Research shows that this is true.

But don't worry. In the future, female colors will appear more in the field of robots. The reason is that human beings need "relationship technology".

Advanced relationship between machine and human

Different from infrastructure such as Internet and cloud computing, robots naturally have family attributes, sound and action language, and some also have eye contact and joint movement. A new generation of robots are increasingly emerging in other fields and undertaking increasingly diversified tasks, especially social services.

This makes it more like a useful partner than a simple intelligent tool. Therefore, it can also be used to establish long-term social emotional relationships with users.

For example, a voice assistant is more than just a digital assistant. It can only answer your questions, be ordered to tell jokes or play music. It can also collect relevant user data to complete personalized behaviors and reactions - if you find that you look sad, you will take the initiative to find ways to cheer you up and talk to you - which is very useful for areas requiring positive relationships such as education and medical treatment.

Generally speaking, the "relationship" between robots and humans (except sex) mainly includes the following directions:

1. Emotional health

Maintaining social contact is the key to maintaining emotional health, but for some elderly people, autistic children and even some young people, the frequency and opportunities of communication in the community are decreasing.

For example, it is estimated that by 2050, the population aged 65 and over in most countries will exceed the population under the age of 15. Some elderly people have to enter nursing institutions to adapt to a variety of people. At this time, social robots can help them integrate into the community faster. MIT Media Lab of MIT has also developed companion robots for children.

(humanoid robot developed by ifoo company to prevent the elderly living alone from dementia)

In some psychotherapy for adults, social robot coaches can also establish a harmonious relationship with users, so as to provide positive psychological intervention for college students.

Boston Children's Hospital cooperates with a university in the United States to develop huggable robot partner, which can provide emotional support for inpatients and family members, and alleviate their sense of stress and pain through playful interaction. In the experiment, the researchers found that robots have better soothing effects than plush teddy bears because of their emotional connections.

Robots also break the limitations of the human body, can play a more stable performance in nursing, security and other operations, and greatly alleviate the pressure of human beings. For example, Japanese nursing robots can easily lift the elderly from bed to reduce the workload of nursing workers.

In children's education, it is also found that children will be affected by robot companions.

For example, playing with enthusiastic robots can make children invest more and work harder. Girls, in particular, prefer and are willing to approach social robots, and tell researchers that they are comfortable with robots. The harmonious relationship also allows children to learn more vocabulary knowledge from their dialogue with robots.

This is also one of the important tasks of robots in the future: setting a good example for children.

As a "relationship technology", social robots have more and more in-depth exchanges and cooperation with humans. Human beings are more and more inclined to combine multi-disciplinary technology, especially psychology, aesthetics, pedagogy and other humanistic fields, in order to create a more natural and better "machine Avatar" to support cooperation.

Human beings are both designers and users. In a world full of gender norms, should robots also be gendered? If so, should it be male or female or neutral?

Male or female is a problem

It seems that there is no need to discuss whether robots should be designed as men or women. Don't you just design what you do? Security robots should be like Gundam, and welcome robots in shopping malls should be as gentle and amiable as female receptionists

This makes sense. Because social robots want to interact with humans, they will naturally be affected by gender.

For example, working in the hospital, in order to enhance the confidence of patients and make the robot look strong enough to hold people stably, the builder has the opportunity to strengthen the male characteristics of the machine in appearance. But if it is a caring job, the arm is too big or the shoulder is too big, which may make the patient afraid of the power of the robot.

It can be said that gender is one of the most important considerations in robot design.

It's not necessarily bad for robots to have gender. But as Ericsson Okamura, a professor of mechanical engineering at Stanford University, said, the question is how this gender is used.

In order to make robots more effective and users more willing to interact, designers often use gender stereotypes. The sexualization of robots further strengthens the prejudice against real humans. For example, it is believed that feminization should be kind, gentle and obedient, while masculinity must be strong and brave.

In fact, discrimination has taken place in the robot world. Researchers at Georgia Institute of technology found that there is no difference in the ability of robots designed, but once people recognize the gender of robots, they will bring into their past experiences and preferences and think that a female robot may not be as good as a male robot in some jobs.

A report released by the United Nations last year also believes that the default female voice of virtual assistants (such as Siri and Alexa) reflects the lack of diversity in the technology industry. As these assistants become more common, the way humans interact with them will affect the way we talk to real humans, which will encourage some people to see women as assistants. The report suggests that technology companies default to more neutral sounds when creating assistants in the future.

In addition, after adding the gender label, the robot has more strict behavior range constraints and stereotypes. If it uses this logic to manufacture social robots, such as serving children's education, it will fall into stereotypes and be unable to contact different ideas, different viewpoints and different personalities, so it is difficult to get out of the comfort zone and promote growth.

The gender assigned by robots should not strengthen the current stereotypes. Then, can we only rely on developers to abide by technical ethics if we do not impose gender on robots?

Robots are male and female, but creators need them

The essence of social robot is a technology that can establish a long-term social emotional relationship with users. Therefore, it is designed as neutral by default, or a dog or a strange plush toy. For example, many robots mentioned above are in animal form.

The key is how to establish a relationship with users. From this perspective, the energy of female developers in social robots has not been fully released.

On the one hand, the innovation of social robots requires in-depth emotional, cognitive and social abilities to help humans (especially children) be healthier and happier and learn better.

Many psychological studies have proved that women and men treat social relations differently. As mentioned in the book warriors and tramps: gender survival, girls tend to pay more attention to personal relationships, have closer friends, try to avoid conflict and be more capable of solving social problems. Boys are more concerned about understanding their skills, less exclusive in friendship, less concerned about exchanging personal information or explicitly talking about their relationship.

Of course, these are broad generalizations about girls and boys and may not apply to all children. But on the whole, the behavior pattern of girls is more consistent with that of relational robots. The existing relationship robot will use many typical female behaviors, such as clearly sharing information about itself and talking about its relationship with children

Make robots more social and relational, and can play a greater role in social services.

On the other hand, at present, the service robots and social robots in the consumer market tend to be low-end homogeneous, their shapes and functions are quite similar, and there is no obvious gap in human-computer interaction ability.

To support the long-term development of this market, enhance emotional interaction and attachment according to the needs of a certain market segment, and establish social relations with users like virtual idols, is not a broken road.

According to Okamura, a professor of mechanical engineering at Stanford University, women account for only 11.4% of the members of one of the largest robot research institutions. With more and more relational robots entering families, campuses, shopping malls and hospitals, the robot industry really needs more female designers and developers to participate.

In the design of relationship technology, humans need to understand how people interact socially and how to develop relationships with others.

But understanding is not to continue inappropriate gender stereotypes and cultural norms, but to a happier and healthier beautiful new world.

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