According to privileged Christians the world over, God made Man in His image. Here, the word ‘Image’ is interpreted broadly, and encompasses people of color and none, as well as individuals of varying genders and none. Alas, when hupersons create robots, they are almost always white and male; by definition, therefore, they are also racist and sexist.
The Guardian, the font of all progressive knowledge, agrees with this assessment. As Laurie Penny writes in a hard-hitting article:
“Robots have been racist and sexist for as long as the people who created them have been racist and sexist, because machines can work only from the information given to them, usually by the white, straight men who dominate the fields of technology and robotics”
There are few exceptions to the above rule. Perhaps the first that comes to mind is the Star Wars character, C3PO. Deferential to womyn (Princess Lea) and wookies alike, the highly-sensitive C3PO was neither sexist nor racist. Nor was he homophobic; quite the opposite in fact, since an unseen director’s cut of the original Star War film includes a scene where C3PO leads a Pride march in some far corner of the solar system.
C3PO aside, however, where are the robots of color? Answer: almost nowhere. On the rare occasion when they do appear in films, they are shown to be malevolent creatures, reflecting their white male creators’ deeply racist prejudices. We need look no further than the ‘Terminator’ film series to learn, for example, that pigment-enhanced robots are almost universally evil in nature.
The problem seems to lie with the people who get jobs to build robots. Alas, robot manufacturers require ‘high academics’, ‘professional rigor’ and ‘exacting standards’, which discriminate against candidates of color with less privileged backgrounds. As the Guardian writes, “As long ago as 1986, the medical school at St George’s hospital in London was found guilty of racial and sexual discrimination when it automated its admissions process based on data collected in the 1970s. The program looked at the sort of candidates who had been successful in the past, and gave similar people interviews. Unsurprisingly, the people the computer considered suitable were male, and had names that looked Anglo-Saxon.”
We urge robot designers to drop their racist policies forthwith! The cybernetic world is a poorer place for its lack of diversity and arbitrary measures like academic ‘success’ have no place in the 21st century workplace.
In ending, we raise another depressing thought. Is Artificial Intelligence itself racist and sexist? We recall Microsoft’s recent bold experiment to see how its AI creation would fare when introduced to the world.nBack to the Guardian:
“Last year Microsoft created a chatbot, Tay, which could “learn” and develop as it engaged with users on social media. Within hours it had pledged allegiance to Hitler and started repeating “alt-right” slogans – which is what happens when you give Twitter a baby to raise. Less intentional but equally awkward instances of robotic intolerance keep cropping up, as when one Google image search using technology “trained” to recognise faces based on images of Caucasians included African-American people among its search results for gorillas.”
Shocking isn’t it?