Social AI Design

Feminist AI Projects Revisited



Early explorations of Artificial Intelligence (symbolic), as evidenced in the reliance on the Turing Test, focused on ways to create a disembodied mind. Currently, the popular Artificial Neural Network computational model is based on the biological neural networks of the human brain. However, these models still privilege cognitive-sensory information and do not account for the lived, social and cultural experiences of embodiment. Not only is this disembodiment prevalent in primarily male AI development environments, the conceptual and physical design of these AI systems often result in a highly sexualized female form, or disembodied form of an assistant or caretaker as evidenced in Manga, comics, popular film, AI doll creation, and home and phone hardware devices. 

Alternatively, feminist theorists Alison Adam and Katherine Hayles posit that Artificial Intelligence should focus on addressing embodiment in the design and development of AI systems. Dara Blumenthal and Sara Ahmed consider embodiment to extend beyond the boundaries of the body, through the body-self, which they consider to be living, and indefinite and a blur between bodily sensation, emotions and thoughts with the ability to shape the surfaces of individual and collective bodies. This approach expands on the idea of embodiment in that rather than being confined to our bodies, we can understand the collective experience of fluid bodies formed by cultural emotions. This approach reflects the idea of embodiment beyond being enfleshed, as suggested by Blumenthal.

This thesis project explores the implications for design when making from a collaborative feminist post-human perspective through two Feminist AI projects, Posthuman Feminist AI (process site) and the Posthuman Plugin: Intelligent Voice Design. This research attempts to create a situated, re-embodiment of AI, from an experiential multi-sensory perspective while addressing social, cultural, material and posthuman elements of embodiment. Posthuman Feminist AI is a direct response to the lack of women in AI development and industry and brings multiple voices into AI creation through co-authoring. Posthuman Plugin is a making response to the disembodiment of the female form in a household AI system, Alexa. Additional making responses address a lack of ease of entry into AI knowledge, as seen in the Cultural AI Design Tool, and a critical video exploration of the representation of women in AI systems in the film AI Representation.  This rough thesis paper provides more information about bias in AI