The University of Science and Technology of China just revealed a new realistic-looking robot named “Jiajia.” Although the robot itself isn’t a huge leap technologically, it does come with one troubling feature. It’s programmed to say pretty sexist stuff.
In a meeting with Chinese journalists on Friday, Jiajia referred to her male creators as “lords” and worried about cameras making her face look fat. Bear in mind that this speech was programmed by someone attempting to mimic real human interaction. And the extent to which Jiajia makes women seem submissive and image-obsessed is almost more troubling since the robot’s face can barely move.
But this is just the latest example in a long line of a disconcertingly misogynistic robotic enterprise. Earlier this month, Reuters reported a creep-tastic story about a man in Hong Kong who built a Scarlett Johansson look-alike robot. Before that, we were inundated with somewhat realistic fembots from companies like Toshiba serving as concierges at futuristic hotels.
It’s easy to cast this aside as a cultural mistranslation. (After all a lot of these bots come from east or southeast Asia.) But American companies have their own history of being obsessed with digitizing women over men.