SIRI has gained a new gender-neutral voice that has everyone in the Apple iPhone community talking.
Apple in March unveiled a new "no-gender" voice for its digital assistant Siri as part of iPhone's latest iOS 15.4 system update.
The voice, which does not sound obviously male or female, was recorded by a member of the LGBTQ+ community whose identity has not yet been revealed, the tech giant told Axios.
This decision by Apple seemed to have iPhone users everywhere rejoicing on social media platforms such as Twitter.
"If you update to the new iOS 15.4, there's a new Siri voice provided by an LGBTQ+ individual :)," one user tweeted.
"The new genderless Siri voice, I love it," a second Twitter user proclaimed.
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In giving Siri a gender-neutral voice, the tech giant took a massive step away from criticism that digital assistants traditionally reinforce gender bias.
Most digital assistants including Amazon's Alexa and Microsoft's Cortana by default, have female names, voices, and "often a submissive or even flirtatious style," a New York Times report noted.
“Obedient and obliging machines that pretend to be women are entering our homes, cars, and offices,” Saniye Gulser Corat, Unesco’s director for gender equality, said in a statement.
“Their hardwired subservience influences how people speak to female voices and models how women respond to requests and express themselves,” Corat added.
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The problem, according to a 2019 UNESCO study, stems from a lack of diversity in the teams developing our everyday technology.
Some recommendations proposed by the study include programming AI devices to discourage gender-based insults and abusive language and closing the gender gap within the technology sector.
"It’s not always malicious bias, it’s unconscious bias, and lack of awareness that this unconscious bias exists, so it’s perpetuated,” Allison Gardner, a co-founder of Women Leading in A.I, told the New York Times.
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“But these mistakes happen because you do not have the diverse teams and the diversity of thought and innovation to spot the obvious problems in place,” Gardner added.
As of December 2021, data has shown that only 10-15% of machine learning researchers in leading technology companies are women and less than 14% of authors of AI research papers are women.
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