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I'm curious about this, as to why most of the AI systems found in spaceships and other "advanced" technologies tend to be more female-oriented.

Female-oriented as in, the entirety of the ship/system is controlled by a female AI. Good examples would include Cortana, from the HALO series, Gordon Freeman's HEV suit. Many movies also do this, where the onboard computer system has a feminine voice. The only male AI system I know of is HAL (Space Odyssey 2001), and even then, his voice isn't entirely male (more robotic than anything).

IF anything, is this a trend that's been going on for decades? Is this something recent? Why are most AI systems feminine?

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    [citation needed] I don't see any evidence that AI systems are almost always feminine. – user56 Sep 15 '13 at 18:45
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    Because the questioner mistakes a few popular mass media products for SF in general. – dmckee Sep 15 '13 at 18:59
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    @dmckee Now that's no way to make assumptions – yuritsuki Sep 15 '13 at 19:13
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    Star Trek had a unisex voice as well as male voice for computers at times. Alien: Resurrection had a male AI named "Father". JARVIS from the Iron Man movies is male. The Batcomputer has been portrayed as male. Superman's Fortress of Solitude also has a male A.I. in the form of Jor-El. GERTY from Moon was voiced by Kevin Spacey. I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.E.N.C.E. from Team America was male. Master Control Program from Tron was male, as were Zordon from Power Rangers, Eddie from H2G2, KITT from Knight Rider, and the list goes on... – Lèse majesté Sep 15 '13 at 23:08
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    @AndrewThompson There's no need for an AI's physical body to have a gender, unless you were teaching it sexuality. And human gender is absurdly complex anyway (it is not as simple as male/female), so I don't see why that dichotomy has to be forced onto non-humans... (Well, I suppose comfort levels of the people interacting with the robots? ASIMO isn't gendered, though..) – Izkata Sep 16 '13 at 23:14
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I don't see any all-over gender bias in AI characters generally.
Boats and ships always get the feminine pronoun, that wouldn't change for spaceships. That would bias your AI selection. Also, various female stereotypes tailored to a primarily male audience come into play, for example, men generally think a female voice is more pleasant. A female AI will not trigger subconscious male-male dominance games. This article from CNN goes into some detail: "Why computer voices are mostly female" by Brandon Griggs, October 21, 2011. This should answer the underlying question.

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    Some of Brandon Griggs' examples are pretty bad. HAL 9000, for example, which he calls a "homicidal computer": HAL's "maleness" isn't threatening -- instead, its actions are. In fact, HAL's voice is quite friendly and pleasant, purposefully warmer than the voices of the human astronauts. Contrast this to, say, SHODAN from System Shock, a definitely psychotic and scary female computer voice. I would trust HAL 9000 sooner than I'd trust SHODAN ;) – Andres F. Sep 16 '13 at 20:38
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    Or GlaDOS, of course. Homicidal female computers abound. – Andres F. Sep 16 '13 at 20:42
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ImaginaryEvents has some good thoughts. I'd like to add that in Star Trek, the Enterprise computer voice was provided by Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, from TOS until her death. Star Trek has been very defining for the genre, so lots of other fictional computer voices have probably been consciously or unconsciously inspired by her voice acting.

Also, to list a few counter-examples to your premise:

If we look at the names on Wikipedia's list of fictional computers we see that the majority seem to be genderless, with some male names and some female names. That's only looking at the names though.

Some examples of computers I'm familliar with that seem to be definently "male":

  • Eddie the ship computer from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
  • Marvin the paranoid android, also from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
  • Jarvis from the Iron Man movies.
  • I.N.T.E.L.L.I.G.E.N.C.E from Team America
  • KITT from Knight Rider
  • As mentioned already, HAL 9000
  • Auto the autopilot in Wall-E, but he's sort of an homage to HAL
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    ONe of the earliest would be "A Logic Named Joe" from 1946. – dmckee Sep 16 '13 at 1:28
  • Mike from RAH's Moon – DVK-on-Ahch-To Sep 16 '13 at 1:36
  • @DVK, Mike went both ways. He was also Michelle when talking to Wyoming. – cjm Sep 16 '13 at 6:40
  • @cjm For that matter Eddie of the Heart of Gold had an alternate, mother-hen personality. – dmckee Sep 17 '13 at 20:08
  • Interestingly, although Auto (Wall-e) was male, the ship's AI "Muth-r" was female and voiced by Sigourney Weaver. – Valorum Mar 20 '16 at 21:27
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I want to say that I read a study done by the US Navy that men react better to a feminine voice during stressful situations, and our auditory senses are more likely to interact with a slightly higher-pitched tone as more suggestive for acknowledgement than that of a more bass-like tone. We see it in movies all the time; the "authorative" figure is some old crusty with a brass voice and an attitude. This is also the same figure that the rebellious type would flaunt against. Now put Angelina's voice in there, and everything's gravy. It's like listening to your mother.

Plus, sex sells.

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I find female voices more irritating (as a woman), so I would only have the male version of Siri or some equivalent if I downloaded an AI. David 8 in Prometheus had an incredibly calming voice and I would certainly be happier living with a male AI in the future if I had a choice. But most of the women I know aren't really 'into' technology and wouldn't have much of an opinion either way.

If men are more involved in technological trends then I suppose it would make sense to see more female AI.

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    Welcome to Stack Exchange! This does answer the question, but on first sight it looks like it might not be. Maybe bold up the last sentence? – Rand al'Thor Mar 20 '16 at 21:44
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Almost all of the automated voices I can think of that we have in the UK today such as train station announcements, and shops like Argos telling which collection point, the escalator warning in ASDA etc all have feminine voices. Perhaps there has been some study into which is more pleasing to the ear and this has just followed through into SF?

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Microsoft software engineer Marianna Budnikova found out the reason why AI is female. http://www.artificialbrain.xyz/303/microsoft-software-engineer-marianna-budnikova-found-out-the-reason-why-ai-is-female.html

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    Link-only answers are discouraged here, since if the link goes dead the answer is rendered essentially useless. Please add some quotes from the link you provide, perhaps a summary and the parts most relevant to the question? – Rand al'Thor Apr 30 '16 at 15:31
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http://io9.gizmodo.com/from-maria-to-ava-why-are-so-many-artificial-intellige-1699274487

http://www.newstatesman.com/politics/feminism/2016/04/why-do-we-give-robots-female-names-because-we-dont-want-consider-their

two more articles on the subject for those still interested

  • 1
    Hello and welcome to this site. Please consider taking the tour. Maybe you can highlight some of the content in the links you provided ? This site is not really fit for link only answers. – Kalissar May 4 '16 at 15:24

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