The actress Maria Furtwängler does away with old-fashioned roll-up pictures. You have noticed that the digital assistant from the speaker listen to Alexa, Siri, and Cortana everywhere women. “I wonder if artificial intelligence will help us to have more diversity or common stereotypes cemented,” said Furtwängler in a recent speech at a conference in Munich. Why the assistance systems were all female, she asked. “They could also be called Hubert, Bernhard or Yossi!”

that was The Chairmen, according to participants, information is also a tongue-in-cheek allusion to the male guests at the “DLD’s Dinner” and her husband, the publisher Hubert Burda. But Furtwängler, which dealt with gender images on TV and on Youtube, has a point.

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Why Siri is a Scandinavian girl’s name? And why is Alexa and not Alexander? “The language assistants are the digital handmaids of our time”, finds the sound researcher Holger Schulz of the University of Copenhagen. In the radio transmitter Germany radio culture, he criticized the fact that the female voice is pushed back into the role of an assistant.

A practical test: In the case of Apple, the computer voice sounds distinctly feminine. If you ask Siri, the voice system in the iPhone, whether it is a man or a woman, she says: “don’t be fooled by my voice: I have no gender.” Alexa has a clear answer. Asked whether she was a wife, says the speaker: “I see myself as a female. In circuits, you would say: I am a woman of power out of the socket.” In the case of Google, the wizard is unnamed.

Apple wants to basically say nothing to what processes a product name. But the manufacturer points out that Siri can be used with female as well as male voice. “This is up to each user to decide.” In the case of Amazon, a spokesperson stated, of the Name Alexa come from the library of Alexandria, a knowledge of the universe. As far as the voice: “throughout the world, studies have shown that the female voice is perceived as more pleasant, friendly and relaxed.”

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When Microsoft says that Cortana was primarily a dialogue-based assistant, the user for various requirements of support. You will be understood according to the manufacturer, not as an expressly female, but in General as a being. And: The entire personality is adjusted according to Microsoft, to local conditions. The French Cortana is therefore different than the Japanese.

Miriam Meckel, Professor for communications management at the University of St. Gallen, also refers to a series of studies that showed that female voices are perceived as more pleasant than male. Therefore, the default for all language assistants female.

The Problem is for Meckel, that these take on a service function, which is associated in their daily dealings with female. “Because, increasingly, children grow up in dealing with Alexa and Co, can have an influence on the gender role perception of a society”, explains the author, who is also the founding publisher of the digital magazine “ada” is.

the technology failure Why Siri and co. in the case of dialects DPA No polite answers, in the case of sexual harassment

a Particularly drastic this issue have been shown at the example of sexual harassment, Meckel. “In fact, the language assistants need to listen to something.” In the meantime, the manufacturer worked on it, that there is suitable and not inappropriate for a polite response. “Do you make Siri today, an indecent proposal, you will hear: “The answer is no.””

The shows, according to Meckel: “Also in the communication and interaction with software systems handling rules are important. We learn not only of people but also of machines.”

For the modern systems to be used for real votes, which are then built in to new sentences. In the technology-history and in pop culture, the woman has the voice of a certain Tradition. In the movie “Her” (2013) falls in love with Joaquin Phoenix in his role in the voice of a computer system, voiced by Scarlett Johansson. The voice on the phone (Yes, there are) is female.

The Berlin-based researcher Judith my Schaefer explains that from the point of view of science: “women’s voices are more intelligible voices than men.” The reason is that the vocal folds vibrate faster. The frequency of the signals is higher.

Inaudible commands, Therefore, the louse fight from Alexa, Siri and co. should really be painted Mans, Alexa, Siri and co. brings can also bring good men

That computer systems women in a assist role, is not a matter for my Schaefer as a scientist. But she has a guess as a woman: Probably, it is due to the fact that men get more for technology, and it did not fit, perhaps in their view of the world. Technically it is not a Problem, if men’s voices would be used, so my Schaefer.

on The Internet, you can see that it might have been different. Siri and Alexa have a grandfather, like an old Video from 1992 shows. In it, former Apple CEO John Sculley and computer scientist Kai-Fu Lee in the television run a computer system, with which you can talk to. The voice sounds quite high. But the System is: Casper.

Caroline Bock / DPA


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