AI’s gender bias reflects society’s systemic inequalities

AI’s gender bias reflects society’s systemic inequalities

AI’s gender bias reflects society’s systemic inequalities
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In the sprawling city of Techville, there is a new player on the scene — and it is not your typical Silicon Valley startup or cutting-edge gadget. 

No, dear readers, it is the thorny issue of gender bias in artificial intelligence, and it is causing quite the stir among the city’s tech-savvy denizens.

Enter Rodrigo Concerns, a man with a penchant for sarcasm and a knack for cutting through the digital noise. His thoughts on the intersection of technology and morality are as sharp as the glare of a computer screen at night.

“I always knew AI had a sense of humor,” Concerns quips. “But I never thought it would be so ... gendered.”

Indeed, gender bias in AI algorithms has become a hot-button issue in recent years, with tech giants and startups alike coming under fire for their less-than-perfect track record when it comes to recognizing and representing diverse genders. 

As philosopher bell hooks once said: “We cannot have a meaningful conversation about gender without talking about power.”

And power, it seems, is at the heart of the matter. From facial-recognition software that struggles to identify non-binary individuals, to voice assistants that default to binary gender options, the prevalence of bias in AI algorithms has raised serious concerns about the implications for inclusivity and equality in the digital age.

“It’s like the digital version of ‘He’s a man, baby!’” Concerns remarks, his voice tinged with irony. “Except instead of Austin Powers, it’s Alexa.”

Gender bias in AI algorithms is a reflection of the systemic inequalities that persist in our society, both online and off.

Rafael Hernandez de Santiago

But behind the laughter lies a more sobering reality. Gender bias in AI algorithms is a reflection of the systemic inequalities that persist in our society, both online and off. As philosopher Judith Butler once observed: “Gender is a kind of imitation for which there is no original.”

And when it comes to imitation, AI has a habit of taking things a bit too literally. Whether it is misgendering transgender individuals or perpetuating harmful stereotypes about gender roles, the consequences of this bias in AI algorithms can be far-reaching and deeply damaging.

“It’s like the digital version of the patriarchy,” Concerns remarks, his tone turning serious. “Except instead of men in suits, it’s algorithms in the cloud.”

But amid the confusion, there is room for hope. With every glitch comes an opportunity for growth, and the issue of gender bias in AI algorithms is no exception. 

By raising awareness and holding tech companies accountable for the ethical implications of their algorithms, concerned citizens like Concerns are paving the way for a more inclusive and equitable future.

“After all,” Concerns muses, a glimmer of hope in his eyes, “if we can teach a robot to dance, surely we can teach it to see beyond gender, but with respect.”

Whether we choose to confront the biases embedded in our algorithms or simply shrug them off as the quirks of an imperfect system, the future is watching.

Rafael Hernandez de Santiago, viscount of Espes, is a Spanish national residing in Saudi Arabia and working at the Gulf Research Center.
 

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point of view

Tourists banned from Italy’s Capri over water shortage

Tourists banned from Italy’s Capri over water shortage
Updated 26 sec ago
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Tourists banned from Italy’s Capri over water shortage

Tourists banned from Italy’s Capri over water shortage
  • The ban by Capri mayor Paolo Falco forced several ferries on their way to the island from Naples and Sorrento in southern Italy to turn back
  • Falco warned of “a real emergency“

ROME: The Italian island of Capri banned tourists from disembarking Saturday after problems with the water supply from the mainland threatened to leave the holiday hotspot parched.
The ban by Capri mayor Paolo Falco forced several ferries on their way to the island from Naples and Sorrento in southern Italy to turn back.
The company charged with supplying the island with water said there had been a technical problem on the mainland on Thursday, and while that had since been fixed problems with the supply to Capri remained.
Falco warned of “a real emergency” and said that while there was still water on most of the island on Friday, local tanks were “running out.”
“The emergency would be worsened by the arrival of the thousands of tourists which arrive on Capri daily,” he said.
Locals could collect up to 25 liters of drinking water per household from a supply tanker, he said.
The ban, which does not apply to residents, will be in place until further notice.
Capri, in the Bay of Naples, is famed for its white villas, cove-studded coastline and upscale hotels. There are some 13,000 permanent residents but huge numbers of day-trippers in summer months.


Ons Jabeur, Aryna Sabalenka join Berlin injury list

Ons Jabeur, Aryna Sabalenka join Berlin injury list
Updated 13 min 51 sec ago
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Ons Jabeur, Aryna Sabalenka join Berlin injury list

Ons Jabeur, Aryna Sabalenka join Berlin injury list
  • Injured stars lose their delayed quarterfinals in the Wimbledon warm-up event

BERLIN: Aryna Sabalenka and Ons Jabeur joined the procession of injured stars limping off the Berlin grass as they retired Saturday while losing their delayed quarterfinals in the Wimbledon warm-up event.
Second-seeded Belarusian Sabalenka retired against unseeded Russian Anna Kalinskaya trailing 5-1 in the first set, in one of the quarterfinals pushed back to Saturday morning by rain on Friday.
Eighth-seeded Jabeur had gone toe-to-toe with top seed Coco Gauff before losing a one-hour 14 minute first set tiebreak 11/9 before packing her rackets in her bag and walking off.
“It doesn’t feel like a win,” said Gauff on court. “Especially as we had such a great first set.”
“It’s not the way you want to finish a match, especially with someone who is so nice on and off the court.”
Gauff said the Tunisian had indicated she was not seriously injured.
“I know she’s going to feel better tomorrow and should be fine for Wimbledon.”
Trailing 4-1, Sabalenka called a medical timeout to have her shoulder and neck treated. She played on for one game before stopping. It was the first time the Belarusian had retired injured in a WTA tournament, said the women’s tennis body.
“I played really good. I had a good start. I’m happy to be in the semifinals,” Kalinskaya said. “I’m happy to have three matches (here), fourth one on grass. That gives me confidence.”
On Thursday, reigning Wimbledon champion Marketa Vondrousova retired with a right hip injury from her second-round match, also against Kalinskaya.
On Friday, former Wimbledon champion Elena Rybakina pulled out while trailing Victoria Azarenka in the quarter-finals.
Azarenka will play Kalinskaya in one semifinal later on Saturday.
Gauff will face compatriot Jessica Pegula who beat Czech Katerina Siniakova 7-6 (7/2), 3-6, 6-3 on Saturday. The fourth-seeded American had led 4-2 in the third set when rain halted play on Friday.
Gauff said her training regime prepared her to play twice in one day.
“I’ll be ready for later today,” said Gauff.


Israeli women rush to buy guns in October 7 aftermath

Israeli women rush to buy guns in October 7 aftermath
Updated 18 min 27 sec ago
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Israeli women rush to buy guns in October 7 aftermath

Israeli women rush to buy guns in October 7 aftermath
  • According to security ministry data, there have been 42,000 applications by women for gun permits since the attack
  • More than 15,000 women civilians now own a firearm in Israel and the occupied West Bank

ARIEL, Palestinian Territories: With many Israelis gripped by a sense of insecurity following Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack, the number of women applying for gun permits has soared, while feminist groups have criticized the rush to arms.
According to security ministry data, there have been 42,000 applications by women for gun permits since the attack, with 18,000 approved, more than tripling the number of pre-war licenses held by women.
The surge has been enabled by the loosening of gun laws under Israel’s right-wing government and its far-right security minister Itamar Ben Gvir.
More than 15,000 women civilians now own a firearm in Israel and the occupied West Bank, with 10,000 enrolled in mandatory training, according to the ministry.
“I would have never thought of buying a weapon or getting a permit, but since October 7, things changed a little bit,” political science professor Limor Gonen told AFP during a weapons handling class at a shooting range in the West Bank settlement of Ariel.
The October 7 attack that triggered the war resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 37,431 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the territory’s health ministry.
“We were all targeted (on October 7) and I don’t want to be taken by surprise, so I’m trying to defend myself,” Gonen said after the class, an obligatory step for acquiring a permit.
While the immediate trigger for the surge in gun buying was the Hamas attack, Ben Gvir was already pledging to reform firearms legislation when he became security minister in late 2022.
He promised to raise the number of civilians holding weapons and “increase self-defense capacity.”
Under Ben Gvir, the process for getting a gun license has been sped up, with Israeli media reporting that in the immediate aftermath of the Hamas attack the authorities were often clearing hundreds of permits per day.
Eligibility criteria for gun ownership in Israel now include being a citizen or permanent resident over the age of 18, having a basic command of Hebrew and medical clearance.
The full list of requirements makes it nearly impossible for non-Jews to obtain a permit.
In March, Ben Gvir, who is himself a settler in the West Bank, hailed civilian weapon ownership passing the 100,000 mark, while showing off his own gun at a rally.
But his rush to put deadly arms into the hands of ordinary Israelis has drawn criticism too.
The Gun Free Kitchen Tables Coalition, an Israeli initiative founded by feminist activists, condemned the civilian arms race.
It is “a strategy of far-right settlers to consider the arming of women to be a feminist act,” a spokesperson for the group of 18 organizations told AFP.
“The increase of weapons in the civilian space leads to an increase in violence and murder against women. It’s time for the state to understand that individual safety is its responsibility.”
Community manager Yahel Reznik, 24, said she now felt “a lot more safe” in Ariel, which sits three kilometers north of the Palestinian city of Salfit.
“Thanks to my training I will be able to defend myself and protect others” from an attack, she told AFP.
Violence in the West Bank, which was already rising before the war, has surged since October 7.
At least 549 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli settlers and troops across the West Bank since the start of the Gaza war, according to the Palestinian Authority.
Attacks by Palestinians have killed at least 14 Israelis, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.
The surge in gun ownership is not limited to West Bank settlers. In the Israeli coastal city of Netanya, just north of Tel Aviv, Corine Nissim said she never leaves home without her gun.
The 42-year-old English teacher walked her three children to the park with a 9mm Smith & Wesson sticking out the back of her trousers.
“After October 7, I think like most people in Israel, I realized that the only person I can trust is myself,” she told AFP, adding she bought a gun not to feel “helpless.”
“The worst scenario that was going through my head was that, of course, terrorists attack me and my family in our own house,” the mother said.
Her decision to own a gun initially surprised some in the seaside town known for its tranquillity and safety, she said.
“People watched me and said, ‘This is so surreal to see you like this with a gun and with the baby’” said Nissim.
But, she said, others started to agree with her and said they would follow suit.
“Many women told me: ‘I’m going to do it. I’m going to get a gun as well.’“


Pakistan PM says soft states cannot gain investor confidence, calls for robust response to militancy

Pakistan PM says soft states cannot gain investor confidence, calls for robust response to militancy
Updated 27 min 10 sec ago
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Pakistan PM says soft states cannot gain investor confidence, calls for robust response to militancy

Pakistan PM says soft states cannot gain investor confidence, calls for robust response to militancy
  • Shehbaz Sharif calls it a ‘grave mistake’ only to expect the armed forces to deal with the issue of militant violence
  • He asks the provinces to play their role, saying it was their joint responsibility after the eighteenth amendment

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Saturday emphasized the necessity of developing a strong and comprehensive response to the challenge of militant violence in Pakistan, saying it was not possible for a “soft state” to strengthen its economy since it tends to lose confidence of potential investors.
Sharif made the observation while addressing the National Action Plan’s Apex Committee, a high-level forum that includes members such as the army chief, provincial chief ministers and heads of major civil and military law enforcement agencies.
The committee oversees and coordinates comprehensive national efforts to combat militant and other security threats within the country.
The prime minister’s statement comes just a day after senior Chinese politician Liu Jianchao said in Islamabad that Pakistan’s security challenges were undermining the confidence of investors from his country.
Liu’s statement reinforced concerns raised by authorities in Beijing following several attacks on Chinese nationals working on energy and infrastructure development projects in Pakistan, including a suicide bombing in March this year that killed five of them.
“For sustainable development in Pakistan, stability and the rule of law are essential,” said the prime minister. “It is our collective responsibility to enforce the writ of the state with full force and without exception.”
“A soft state can never earn the confidence of investors, whether they are domestic or foreign,” he continued. “Therefore, a healthy and strong economy cannot be envisaged in an unstable state plagued by terrorism.”
Sharif maintained fighting militant violence was the joint responsibility of all institutions of the state.
“We have very easily left this matter to the officers and soldiers of our armed forces,” he added. “The provinces and governments have completely absolved themselves of this responsibility. This is the dangerous approach that has developed over the past years.”
The prime minister noted this was not the way Pakistan could “end terrorism.”
“After the 18th amendment in the constitution, the provincial governments have a significant role in this effort and have also been provided resources,” he said. “Therefore, I expect that the provinces will play an active part in combating terrorism. Together, God willing, we will eradicate this scourge.”
He said it was important for everyone to take the ownership of the war against militancy, adding that leaving it to just one institution of the state would be a “grave mistake.”
Earlier in the day, Pakistan’s interior minister Mohsin Naqvi also held a meeting to review the security measures for foreign nationals, particularly the Chinese workers in the country.


Food piles up at Gaza crossing as aid agencies say unable to work

Food piles up at Gaza crossing as aid agencies say unable to work
Updated 32 min 46 sec ago
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Food piles up at Gaza crossing as aid agencies say unable to work

Food piles up at Gaza crossing as aid agencies say unable to work

JERUSALEM: Days after Israel announced a daily pause in fighting on a key route to allow more aid into Gaza, chaos in the besieged Palestinian territory has left vital supplies piled up and undistributed in the searing summer heat.
More than eight months of war, sparked by Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel, have led to dire humanitarian conditions in the Gaza Strip and repeated UN warnings of famine with outside aid severely restricted.
Desperation among Gaza’s 2.4 million population has increased as fighting rages, sparking warnings from aid agencies that they are unable to deliver aid including vegetables.
Israel says it has let supplies in and called on agencies to step up deliveries.
“The breakdown of public order and safety is increasingly endangering humanitarian workers and operations in Gaza,” the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, also known as OCHA, said in a briefing late Friday.
“Alongside the fighting, criminal activities and the risk of theft and robbery has effectively prevented humanitarian access to critical locations.”
But Israel says it has allowed hundreds of trucks of aid into southern Gaza, trading blame with the United Nations over why the aid is stacking up.
It shared aerial footage of white and black containers lined up on the Gazan side of the Kerem Shalom crossing and more trucks arriving to add to the stockpile.
The October Hamas attack on Israel resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
The militants also seized 251 hostages, 116 of whom remain in Gaza although the army says 41 are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive in Gaza has killed at least 37,551 people, also mostly civilians, according to the health ministry in the Hamas-ruled territory.
With civil order breaking down in the territory, the UN says it has been unable to pick up any supplies from Kerem Shalom since Tuesday, leaving crucial aid in limbo.
A deputy UN spokesman this week said the crossing “is operating with limited functionality, including because of fighting in the area.”
Israel’s coordinator for civilian affairs in the Palestinian territories, known as COGAT, said Thursday “the content of 1,200 aid trucks awaits collection by UN aid agencies,” saying a lack of distribution was responsible.
Earlier in the week, COGAT spokesman Shimon Freedman told reporters at the crossing the daily pause on a southern road into Gaza was designed to allow the UN “to collect and distribute more aid” alongside an Israeli military presence.
He said most of the aid had not moved because “organizations have not taken sufficient steps to improve their distribution capacity.”
Aid agencies have instead pointed to Israel’s offensive on the southern city of Rafah, which pushed out more than a million people and closed a border crossing with Egypt, as a deepening humanitarian crisis hampered relief efforts.
The United States also sanctioned an extremist Israeli group last week, accusing it of blocking convoys and looting and burning trucks trying to deliver humanitarian aid to Palestinian civilians in Gaza.
And the UN food agency has said its aid convoys have been looted inside Gaza by “desperate people.”
As both sides stall, it is the civilians in Gaza who are paying the price.
“We don’t see any aid. Everything we get to eat comes from our own money and it’s all very expensive,” said Umm Mohammad Zamlat, 66, from northern Gaza but now living in Khan Yunis in the south.
“Even agencies specialized in aid deliveries are not able to provide anything to us,” she added.
“We hope this war ends and we return to our homes and that we don’t need aid from anyone.”
NGO Doctors Without Borders said on Friday that six trucks with 37 tons of supplies, mostly essentially medical items, have been held up at the Egyptian part of Kerem Shalom since June 14.
“This is incomprehensible and unacceptable,” it said in a statement.
“It’s like asking a fireman to watch a house filled with people burn down, and preventing him putting out the fire.”