Japanese Cleaning Robot Offends for All the Wrong Reasons

January 14, 2014

The Japan Times headline read, “AI journal caught in sexism flap over robot cover girl.” But nobody was really offended. Come on, people! This just looks like a social media exploit bringing rare attention to the staid Japanese Society for Artificial Intelligence.

Robot girl cover for JSAI journal - Jan. 11, 2014

Robot girl cover for JSAI journal – Jan. 11, 2014 (Enlarge)

See, you can tell it’s a robot because of the power cable plugged into her back for recharging. In case you missed that. Any other clues?

I asked my wife about the cover image, and she said, “Why is a robot using a broom?” It should at least use a souped up vacuum sweeper. Indeed, this picture looks like a strange juxtaposition of futuristic technology in a nostalgic setting. Another question: Why is the robot girl reading a book while supposedly cleaning the room? At the very least she should download a digital book into her memory banks instead of flipping through an awkward hard-copy.

What’s really offensive is the idea that we’d have this super-advanced technology to make an android that can pass for human, and then we’d just use it for mundane household chores. Isn’t there anything more important to do?

I asked my wife if she felt offended by the picture, and she said no. She did mention that she’d prefer a metallic robot like R2-D2 instead of an attractive young girl. She agreed the cover image might be sexist, but let’s face it – it’s extremely tame compared to all the other sexist things you see in mangas and everywhere else.

The JSAI apologized for suggesting that housework was necessarily women’s work. A-hem. What really bothered the feminists out there might have been that the robot was an attractive young girl, and that geeky AI researchers are probably scheming to build sexbots! But my wife shot down that idea with a simple and straightforward statement: “It would be much easier just to get a real woman, instead of building a complicated robot that worked just like a woman.”

Indeed, what’s the point of making an android that’s just like a human being? We’ve already got 7 billion humans. And making more is a cinch! But if you have highly advanced AI technology, you should build something that goes beyond mere humanity. Aim higher, ye JSAI geeks!