A top U.S. business lobby in China said on Wednesday that nearly half of its members are seeing non-tariff barrier retaliation in China as a result of the increasingly bitter trade war between Beijing and Washington.
The United States has temporarily eased trade restrictions on China’s Huawei to minimize disruption for its customers, a move the founder of the world’s largest telecoms equipment maker said meant little because it was already prepared for U.S. action.
AI-powered voice assistants with female voices are perpetuating harmful gender biases, according to a UN study.
These female helpers are portrayed as “obliging and eager to please”, reinforcing the idea that women are “subservient”, it finds.
Particularly worrying, it says, is how they often give “deflecting, lacklustre or apologetic responses” to insults.
The report calls for technology firms to stop making voice assistants female by default.
The study from Unesco (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) is entitled, I’d blush if I could, which is borrowed from a response from Siri to being called a sexually provocative term.
“Companies like Apple and Amazon, staffed by overwhelmingly male engineering teams, have built AI systems that cause their feminised digital assistants to greet verbal abuse with catch-me-if-you-can flirtation,” the report says.
“Because the speech of most voice assistants is female, it sends a signal that women are… docile helpers, available at the touch of a button or with a blunt voice command like ‘hey’ or ‘OK’. The assistant holds no power of agency beyond what the commander asks of it. It honours commands and responds to queries regardless of their tone or hostility,” the report says.
“In many communities, this reinforces commonly held gender biases that women are subservient and tolerant of poor treatment.”
Research firm Canalys estimates that approximately 100 million smart speakers – the hardware that allows users to interact with voice assistants – were sold globally in 2018.
And, according to research firm Gartner, by 2020 some people will have more conversations with voice assistants than with their spouses.
Voice assistants now manage an estimated one billion tasks per month, according to the report, and the vast majority – including those designed by Chinese tech giants – have obviously female voices.
Microsoft’s Cortana was named after a synthetic intelligence in the video game Halo that projects itself as a sensuous unclothed woman, while Apple’s Siri means “beautiful woman who leads you to victory” in Norse. While Google Assistant has a gender-neutral name, its default voice is female.
The report calls on developers to create a neutral machine gender for voice assistants, to programme them to discourage gender-based insults and to announce the technology as non-human at the outset of interactions with human users.
The report also highlights the digital skills gender gap, from lack of internet use among girls and women in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of South Asia, to the decline of ICT studies being taken up by girls in Europe.
According to the report, women make up just 12% of AI researchers.
Huawei launched its new Honor 20 series smartphones in London on Tuesday in a presentation that emphasized the Chinese company’s technology but made no reference of a possible rupture with Google.
Nokia Chief Executive Rajeev Suri said on Tuesday the company could benefit from a U.S. clampdown on Chinese rival Huawei as the race to roll out 5G services heats up.
Home Depot Inc reported its slowest growth in quarterly same-store sales in at least three years on Tuesday, missing Wall Street estimates, as the home improvement chain was hurt by wet weather in February and a steep fall in lumber prices.
China Eastern Airlines has formally requested compensation from Boeing Co for the grounding of its 14 737 MAX aircraft and has delayed deliveries of future planes, the company said on Tuesday.
Toyota Motor Corp last month announced two deals in China that were small in size but large in strategic planning.
Oil prices edged up on Tuesday on escalating tensions between the United States and Iran and on signs that producer club OPEC will continue withholding supply this year.
American Airlines Group Inc said on Monday it has filed a lawsuit against two unions representing its mechanics, accusing the workers of an illegal slowdown aimed at disrupting operations to improve their position in prolonged labor talks.