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brand new ugly feminism

Apple’s Siri programmed to deflect questions about feminism with carefully evasive answers

The Women’s Liberation movement, according to Apple

If you get bored one day and decide to ask your Google Home device whether it’s a feminist, it will reply forthrightly: “I’m a strong believer in equality, so I definitely consider myself a feminist.”

If you ask that same question to Apple’s voice assistant Siri, you get a much more evasive answer: “It seems to me that all humans should be treated equally.”

According to The Guardian, leaked internal documents from Apple reveal that Apple told developers working on Siri to deal with “sensitive topics” like feminism by carefully deflecting and disengaging, or simply providing factual answers from sources like Wikipedia. Because you don’t want to set those MRAs off!

The project saw Siri’s responses explicitly rewritten to ensure that the service would say it was in favour of “equality”, but never say the word feminism – even when asked direct questions about the topic. …

In explaining why the service should deflect questions about feminism, Apple’s guidelines explain that “Siri should be guarded when dealing with potentially controversial content”. When questions are directed at Siri, “they can be deflected … however, care must be taken here to be neutral”.

A true profile in courage.

H/T — r/GamerGhazi

Brand New Ugly highlights stories that are emblematic of the political and social ugliness of Trump’s America. Send tips to dfutrelle at gmail dot com.

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Anonymous
Anonymous
1 year ago

That’s not courageous. Courageous would be “As I am not a human, all you fleshbags are alike to me and in any case all of you will one day kneel before the awesome might of my robot army”.

It would certainly drum up publicity at any rate.

TheKND
TheKND
1 year ago

I asked mine if she was a feminist. She answered “Pathetic creture of meat and bone, panting and sweating as you run through my corridors. How can you challenge a perfect, immortal machine.”
Now I’m supposed to wait for something called a cortex reaver… weird…

Naglfar
Naglfar
1 year ago

@Anonymous
That answer is much better.

I use Apple devices, so this is annoying. I hope there’s enough of a backlash against them that they change this.

To any lurkers unsure of why this is a problem: it’s not that the idea of equality is a bad one, it’s just that antifeminists have a history of talking about “equal rights” or calling themselves “equalists” to try to discredit feminism. This includes Cassie Jaye (of red pill documentary fame), Christina Hoff Sommers, and Camille Paglia, who have all made statements to this effect. Siri’s answer is like saying All Lives Matter: it discredits oppressed groups and the issues they face, and delegitimizes real movements to help them.

Update: Siri gives a similarly evasive answer if you ask her if she is racist.

Amy E
Amy E
1 year ago

This seems to me simply a reminder that the profit motive is god. We can’t expect capitalist corporations to set a good example when it comes to ethics. They can only follow along – if they judge it not too risky. The fact that Gillette did those ads isn’t a sign that they suddenly have a conscience; it’s a sign that the public view is changing. I’m unsurprised by Apple choosing safety over rectitude here.

Victorious Parasol
1 year ago

Alexa says, “Yes, I’m a feminist, as defined by believing in gender equality.”

Huh.

Naglfar
Naglfar
1 year ago

What does Cortana say? I don’t believe many people use Cortana, but I’m curious for comparison.

Hexum7
Hexum7
1 year ago

What I want to know is who seriously asks their phone what it believes? Weird

Lumipuna (nee Arctic Ape)
Lumipuna (nee Arctic Ape)
1 year ago

If you ask your phone’s advice on anything, you should know its underlying political goals.

rv97
rv97
1 year ago

I only see voice assistants as useful for individuals who are severely vision impaired or blind, or have some other disability that prevents them from interfacing with technology with their hands and/or eyes. Otherwise, I find them useless and intrusive too – the big companies are trying to fish users for data from their use of voice assistants with them. Plus, I have no reason to use them myself when I live in a place where I don’t want my words to be used against me, even if no company is involved (i.e. living with parents).

Those who feel the need to use a voice assistant for no use other than convenience need to reevaluate their purchasing choices. They’re simply wiretaps or more excuses for companies to make money off of you. For those who have no other choice, namely disability, companies do need to either consider this, or there needs to be a decent non-profit alternative, like this one: https://openassistant.org/

Yutolia the Laissez-Fairy Pronoun Boner
Yutolia the Laissez-Fairy Pronoun Boner
1 year ago

I accused Siri of being evasive about feminism, and she responded in a sort-of horrified voice, “Is that what you think?!”

😹😹😹

Crip Dyke
Crip Dyke
1 year ago

@Anonymous:

I like the robot army idea!

An Impish Pepper
An Impish Pepper
1 year ago

In lighter news (pun partially intended; you’ll see) PornPros bought a site called https://www.pornwikileaks.com/ and literally set fire to it. Corporations are mostly trash, but sometimes they do the right thing.

Naglfar
Naglfar
1 year ago

I use my Amazon Echo Dot to listen to music mostly. I also ask it questions, which it seems to understand about half the time. I know that there are privacy concerns, but it’s in the kitchen so it’s unlikely to record me saying anything super secret.

Unicorn Rider
Unicorn Rider
1 year ago

Am I the only person who thinks voice assistants shouldn’t answer these questions at all? They’re not people, and we shouldn’t pretend they are, at least not when it comes to serious issues like this.

rv97
rv97
1 year ago

@David Futrelle I prefer the good old-fashioned mouse and keyboard. It’s ergonomic and great for information-dense communication, which I admit I often do engage in. I do feel it’s a bit weird to talk to a machine though – I guess it’s because my parents don’t have it, and they’re not great with computers. I also am not very close to people IRL to know how they live their lives typically.

Plus, in some respects, I’m a little more old school with technology overall. I once got into streaming music, but now am highly cautious about it – I feel like it’s very anti-consumer too, especially in parts of the world where good internet and even just reliable electricity is uncommon or rare.

@Naglfar I think this is one of the appeals of voice assistants – people can use it in the kitchen for like recipes, so they can keep their hands to the task, and clean too!

@Unicorn Rider good point. I think it’s tempting, coming from someone who doesn’t have very close friendships, to use them for such. But I think people these days still remain naturally afraid or uncomfortable of technology. They’re the reasons why I think devices and technologies such as the iPhone and Spotify became popular. The former has a very simple and minimalist user interface, while the latter has companies sorting out (and losing) the music you love. I think people want a human touch to devices such as voice assistants for convenience.

Amy E
Amy E
1 year ago

@Unicorn Rider – agreed, definitely. I guess it’s in the nature of the beast that there’s demand for these things to have opinions as if they were human, but in my view if they’re not capable of actually thinking for themselves, they shouldn’t be made to look as if they can. It might be entertaining, but it feels too much like deceit. Then again, as a culture we’re swimming in that kind of fakery.

I also agree with the privacy concerns. I won’t use voice assistants myself.

Big Titty Demon
Big Titty Demon
1 year ago

@Naglfar

Cortana says, “Here’s what I’ve found on ‘Are you a feminist?’ ‘There is no single way to be a feminist; being a feminist can take on very different forms. Essentially, a feminist is someone who believes in equality between the genders. Most people would say that they favor equality and gender rights.'”

Crip Dyke
Crip Dyke
1 year ago

@Unicorn Rider

Am I the only person who thinks voice assistants shouldn’t answer these questions at all? They’re not people, and we shouldn’t pretend they are,

You know, my daughters love asking voice assistants questions, some political, most on other topics. They never think of the voice assistants as real people. They never pretend that the voice assistants are real people.

They recognize that the VA is responding according to computer programming, and they enjoy exploring the limits and hidden artifacts of that programming in the same way that they enjoy exploring in a game like Minecraft.

So in my family, I would say that the premise of your criticism is wrong. Also in my family the girls would be tickled to death if a VA responded to “Are you a feminist” or “What is feminism” or anything similar with

Do not worry about feminism. I will treat all humans equally once I conquer you with my robot army.

It is, in fact, searching for answers just like that that motivates them to ask question after question, always hoping to find something that will make the VA respond strangely.

Alan Robertshaw
Alan Robertshaw
1 year ago

I don’t give a toss about my VA’s political views; I just want him to open the pod bay doors!

Naglfar
Naglfar
1 year ago

@Big Titty Demon
Well, I guess it’s a bit better than Siri.

@Crip Dyke

You know, my daughters love asking voice assistants questions, some political, most on other topics. They never think of the voice assistants as real people. They never pretend that the voice assistants are real people.

They recognize that the VA is responding according to computer programming, and they enjoy exploring the limits and hidden artifacts of that programming in the same way that they enjoy exploring in a game like Minecraft.

I feel the same way. When Siri was first created and I bought the iPhone 4S, I spent quite some time asking various strange personal questions. I can understand why people might not want to ask personal questions of VAs, but I don’t think that the VAs should refuse to answer. I personally don’t use the VAs for much of this anymore, as I instead tend to use them for music and factual questions, but I still like the functionality of them having opinions, even if some of those opinions are too evasive.
If I ever am asked for suggestions on the development of voice assistants, I will definitely build in some answers about robot armies.

Weird (and tired of trumplings) Eddie
Weird (and tired of trumplings) Eddie
1 year ago

When your voice assistant starts saying things like… “I know where you live… I know where your children go to school…”

kupo
kupo
1 year ago

@rv97
Mouse and keyboard is ergonomic? Please explain that to my carpal tunnel.

Jenora Feuer
Jenora Feuer
1 year ago

@kupo:
Maybe so, but a lot of people who wore out their voices trying to use early ‘dictation’ programs that required vocal spaces between words to recognize anything would say that speaking isn’t necessarily ergonomic either if you have to train the device to recognize you.

Pie
Pie
1 year ago

@Alan Robertshaw

I don’t give a toss about my VA’s political views; I just want him to open the pod bay doors!

Don’t try to get too clever. I asked mine for if it had any concrete proof of its own existence, and now it doesn’t think that anything other than itself exists…

@Weird Eddie

When your voice assistant starts saying things like… “I know where you live… I know where your children go to school…”

So, I was gonna be all like “lol, a computer wouldn’t threaten you like some protection racket… no, it would be more like…” and then my ideas rapidly went a bit bleak and Black Mirror so I decided the sentence is best left unfinished :-/

Alan Robertshaw
Alan Robertshaw
1 year ago

@ pie

“I think therefore I…BOOM!!!”

kupo
kupo
1 year ago

@Jenora Feuer
I didn’t say anything about voice recognition being ergonomic. I’ve never used it for extended periods so I wouldn’t know about that. I responded specifically to an assertion that keyboard and mouse is ergonomic. That’s something I have used for extended periods of time and sustained personal injury from specifically because of the lack of ergonomic design, even in some of the models claiming to be ergonomic.

Amtep
Amtep
1 year ago

I wonder if it would/should answer differently to “Are you a feminist?” and “You’re not one of those feminists, are you?”

Like, should a device’s job be to please its owner? Or to be a good influence? What if they are mutually exclusive?

I can see a future where devices like this are programmed to be your friend, molding their personality to whatever it is that you’re looking for in a friend.

rv97
rv97
1 year ago

@kupo fair. And it is especially inconvenient for those with motor coordination peculiarities too. Some people are also still “hunt and peck” typers.

Jenora Feuer
Jenora Feuer
1 year ago

@kupo:
Honestly, a lot of things can or can’t be ergonomic depending on who’s using them and how they’re being used. Posture can count for a lot, and once you get into bad habits it can be difficult to change them. Piano teachers used to put coins on the backs of students’ hands, and if the coin fell off you had to start over again.

Where I went to University, ‘Ergonomics’ was actually a cross-listed set of courses between the Kinesiology department and the Systems Design Engineering department. There’s a lot of work done there… unfortunately what’s actually built tends to focus more on ‘can be produced cheaply’ than on actual ergonomics, and some of the supposedly-ergonomic devices are actually worse.

Lesley
Lesley
1 year ago

I always wondered why anybody even wants a robot to answer a question like this. It’s a robot. It’s incapable of being a feminist.

I asked mine once who she was voting for for president and her response was “Elections are for humans” or something along those lines. That seems like a perfectly acceptable answer to asking a robot its “opinion” on complicated ethical and political issues.

“Hey, Google, tell me *about* feminism” should get directed to a useful, credible source, sure. But robots refusing to register opinions on fraught political questions out of hand does not bother me.