As artificial intelligence is entering all spheres of our lives, a lot of concern is arising about the possible white bias and patriarchy of the impending AI world.
Research shows women are much more skeptical of and averse to innovation in comparison to men who embrace and trumpet it. This fear of technological innovation has to do with the fact that society often views the role of women as replaceable by AI, which is visible in the abundance of women robots and female personal assistants, such as Alexa and Cortana.
If we’re coming to the point when most jobs are automated and robots become everyday reality in our lives, we’d better make sure those algorithms are beneficial for most people, be it an Afro-American woman or a Chinese man.
As of today, 85 percent of the machine-learning workforce is male. Thus, acknowledging the possibility of embedding programmers’ ethics and values we very well might end up in a machine-dominated world of historically “privileged class” values.
Following this logic, we might find ourselves in a world where autonomous vehicles and judicial systems are biased towards favoring one kind of person as opposed to another only because of the ethics it was programmed with. We might wake up in the world of “Her,” full of intelligent sex dolls and seductive female AI assistants, where real women will be rendered irrelevant due to the automation of jobs and the decline of family values.
Well, that sounds pretty scary! But is it really where we are headed? Does AI have to be racist, sexist, and unfriendly to women? Can technology be biased per se?
According to the World Economic Forum, women are more likely to be employed in jobs that face the highest automation risks. For example, 73 percent of cashiers in shops are women and 97 percent of cashiers are expected to lose their jobs to automation. Moreover, data sets, image recognition and credit check systems all have big blind spots that adversely affect women and minorities.
Statistics, however, are heavily skewed towards immediate automation and still limited data sets. Automation-wise, there exists much more male-dominated professions that will be affected in the future — construction workers, truck and taxi drivers to name just a few. As analytics and machine learning advances and we tap the world of ever-expanding big data, we will see the world becoming less prejudiced.
An overarching topic we should care about is not the jobs will be automated and the professions will be obsolete, but the jobs and skills will increase in relevance and demand. And here the long-time perspective looks as bright for women as never before.
Empathy, listening, multi-tasking, intuition, collaboration and patience are qualities that will get more prominence as automation takes over the workplace.
I’d like to argue that three subsets of qualities will become crucial in the machine age:
Both by nature and by culture, women are better placed to benefit from automation. The inherent presence of empathy and collaboration skills makes women perfectly positioned to navigate the complex post-industrial world. Let’s break down the 3Cs; check this out:
While computers can already create unique music and art pieces through pattern recognition and affinity analysis, we don't expect them to develop emotional intelligence and passion any time soon. And it is exactly the passion and ambition that have been driving the human species to create masterpieces, come up with groundbreaking solutions and create whole new ecosystems. While there are way more innovations and patents filed by men, it is explained by history and culture rather than biology. As women are occupying more academic and managerial positions they will be getting equal opportunities and avenues for innovation. Of course, technology will further enable people to find new ways of self-expression and facilitate the creative process.
According to the UK National Statistics data, women currently dominate employment within caring and leisure occupations; both of which require the empathy and ability to put yourself into another person’s shoes. An estimated 66 percent of caregivers in 2015 were female.
With the population aging, women will become more important as premium caregivers, nurses and psychologists. A US study by The Telegraph shows women are twice as likely to become caregivers than men, which means that they are both more natural in and more inclined towards compassion-involving professions. Caregiving might appear to be a slightly sexist example, which, nevertheless, underpins a whole universe of an empathy-involving job market of psychologists, teachers, therapists, social workers, well-being coaches, nurturing specialists and many other roles we will be unwilling to allocate to robotics any time soon.
Last but not the least, collaboration and cooperation are inherent human qualities, which, according to Yuval Harari, brought us to the pinnacle of evolution. It is not that our communication is better or more intricate than the one of birds or whales; but it was human civilization that came up with the language and trust system that allowed huge numbers of people to collaborate, as opposed to a tribal structure in the animal kingdom.
And while men have been traditionally more competitive and victory-oriented, women are more likely to look for mutual benefit and a peaceful resolution. Women’s’ natural biological tendencies of self-presentation and the creation of a safe environment are likely to propel them to take more prominent roles in politics and international relations. In fact, this is not a suggestion but a timely necessity as the dangers of mutually assured destruction and automatic weapons occupy an ever more prominent role in AI Ethics discussions.
Career wise, men tend to overestimate their abilities and monopolize the work, while women downplay their skills and seek help from their peers. While the first approach has been successful in the highly competitive economy of scarce skills, it is the ability to get along and quickly obtain useful information that is going to define the workplace in the knowledge economies of “online learning” and “team play.”
The 21st century is bringing way too many challenges to limit ourselves to only 50 percent of available human resources.
Mass extinction of species, air pollution, plastic proliferation, climate change and the emergence of antibiotic resistant bacterium — all the problems we are currently facing require a collective effort of the whole of humanity, and more than ever, require our empathy, collaboration and creative solutions.
And as gender stereotypes and brute force are giving way to meritocracy and problem solving, both men and women will have to nurture genuinely human features, our unique selling points in this technological race.
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What jobs will still be around in 20 years? Read this to prepare your future:
Bartoletti, Ivana. “Women Must Act Now, or Male-Designed Robots Will Take over Our Lives | Ivana Bartoletti.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 13 Mar. 2018, www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/mar/13/women-robots-ai-male-artificial-intelligence-automation.
Bateman, Jessica. “Sexist Robots Can Be Stopped by Women Who Work in AI.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 29 May 2017, www.theguardian.com/careers/2017/may/29/sexist-robots-can-be-stopped-by-women-who-work-in-ai.
Mahdawi, Arwa, and Mona Chalabi. “What Jobs Will Still Be around in 20 Years? Read This to Prepare Your Future.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 26 June 2017, www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/jun/26/jobs-future-automation-robots-skills-creative-health.
Todd, Sarah. “Inside the Surprisingly Sexist World of Artificial Intelligence.” Quartz, Quartz, 26 Oct. 2015, qz.com/531257/inside-the-surprisingly-sexist-world-of-artificial-intelligence/.
Kate Levchuk, blogger, is a London-based futuristic blogger writing on transhumanism, AI and the philosophy of tech. Kate is passionate about an infinite human potential and the role of technology in uncovering this. She currently works as a Strategic Sales Manager in AI start up, MachineOS.