You are here

Distinguished East Asia Lecture "Gendering AI and Robots: Robo-Sexism vs. 'Womenomics' in Japan

Monday, November 18, 2019 - 5:00pm

Jennifer Robertson, Professor, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

 Huntsman Hall, G60

In humans and humanoid robots alike, gender—femininity, masculinity—constitutes an array of learned behaviors that are cosmetically enabled and enhanced. In humans, these behaviors are both socially and historically shaped, but are also contingent upon many situational influences, including individual choices. I will explore the sex/gender dynamics informing the design and embodiment of artificial intelligence (AI) and robots, especially humanoids. In Japan, PM Abe is a leading promoter of the robotization of the labor force, including child- and elder-care, and has argued that robots will save the Japanese economy and liberate (married) women. However, as I show, advanced technology does not necessarily promote social progress but can be deployed to reinforce conservative models of sex/gender roles, ethnic nationalism, and "traditional" family structures.

Jennifer Robertson is Professor of Anthropology and the History of Art at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She has a nonbudgeted appointments in the Women's Studies, the School of Art and Design, and is a faculty affiliate in the Robotics Institute. Robertson is the Japan Editor of Critical Asian Studies. Among her books are three published by the University of California Press: Native and Newcomer: Making and Remaking a Japanese City (1991), Takarazuka: Sexual Politics and Popular Culture in Modern Japan (1998; Japanese translation, Gendai Shokan, 2000), and Robo sapiens japanicus: Robots, Gender, Family, and the Japanese Nation (2018; Japanese translation, Shūeisha, fall 2019). (