AI journal caught in sexism flap over robot cover girl


An academic society has apologized for using an illustration of a cleaning woman with a cable in her back to depict the idea of artificial intelligence on the front cover of its journal.

The Japanese Society for Artificial Intelligence (JSAI) said that it was hoping to make the concept of “jinkou chinou” (artificial intelligence) more appealing to potential readers.

The illustration on the front of the journal’s first edition of the year was a departure for the society. It replaced dense tracts of text and complicated diagrams that have adorned the cover for the last few decades.

The drawing depicted an attractive, doe-eyed young woman holding a sweeping brush and with a thick cable plugged into her back.

A red-faced JSAI admitted Thursday the attempt to popularize the small-circulation magazine had misfired and apologized for any offense that it had caused.

“The front-cover design is not intended to discriminate against women,” the group said in a statement on its website. But the design “gave . . . room for the interpretation that women should clean,” it said.

“We deeply regret that as a public academic group this matter was not considered more carefully,” said the statement issued under the names of the journal’s chief editor and his deputy, both of whom are scientists.

The group noted, however, that artificial intelligence is not an easy concept to depict as it has no physical form.

“The appearance of any future robot that uses artificial intelligence to perform everyday tasks is a difficult issue,” it said, adding the society will continue to explore the problem.

The journal, which sells 3,000 to 3,500 copies, is published every two months. The January cover design was selected from about 100 ideas submitted during a public competition.

  • Its fair to say the sex lives of the organisation members just went from ‘fluky’ to non-existent. At least they have their robots. Let’s leave them with their alternate reality.

  • Kazuhisa Nakatani

    I don’t think the image per se is discriminatory, but it made me believe that JSAI must be a male-dominant society. It seems the members of the society, presumably vast majority of it are male, are allowed to express the image of women they prefer without any hesitation or consideration to what it can imply.

    The first word that came into my mind when I saw the illustration was “都合のいい女”, or “convenient women” literally speaking. It is indeed convenient for men with traditional value, since the description gives the nod to what they want whether conscious or unconscious. By the way, if “convenient women” sounded like “comfort women”, it is a sheer happenstance.

  • Jose Takahahashi

    The real problem here is how some people on the internet attack and make a big fuss on whatever they can get their hands on. You can see this in how many blogs 炎上 with a single comment, or some people get condemned from a single picture they post on twitter. These internet “trolls” or vigilantes think they are acting on justice, but in fact they condemn people just to satisfy their twisted desire and alleviate their stress.
    I mean this is no big deal. Since when are we criticized and forced to apologize for drawing female cleaning androids? If you call this offensive, anything could be offensive. Would you ask a cleaning lady to stop working because their mere existence is a discrimination against women?
    People who sympathize with the critics really need to get things into perspective.
    We cannot let these trolls transform our society into a Orwellian one where everyone monitor every single action of each other. Feminism issues especially needs careful consideration because they are easy prey to the vigilantes.

    • Franki Webb

      It implies that women are subservient, which is offensive. Everyone should speak up for inequality, no matter if it affects us or not. Brushing these issues under the mat can further exacerbate things and if we all think the way you do, we would still have huge inequality issue still plaguing our society.

      If something offensive, we shouldn’t be dismissive, we should be asking why do people take offence to it? A remedy is the answer, not simply ignoring and hoping it goes away.

      • Khaos Cualdawath

        You completely misread what he was commenting about. He was not reflecting anything near to the inequality, but the problem of the attitude of those who are attacking anything and everything where there might be some kind of issue that might get sparkled. I agree with his points, as this debate over a definitely not important implication is visibly is just a tantrum, unneeeded and much more hurtful that it should be,
        How do you know it is not about the problem and the solution? It does not offer any kind of solution, it just takes offence and flaps around a vague topic to arise in/fame. That is no corrective attitude, that is nothing that brings solution.
        A debate that offers a solution, for example an open letter that offers a non-genderized drone as the one doing the chore, would be sufficient, not a covert attack from the net just to make a fuss…

    • God forbid men are called out on their sexism, amirite? I mean, it’s not like humanity has lived in a state of constantly demeaning women for thousands of years, why should we change now? This is a big deal, because this is just the tip of the iceberg. This is just a hint of how this mentality is still considered acceptable.

  • James Benjamin Wales

    Why can’t I get a straight answer on why people insist on going by what something means to them instead of what it’s intended to mean?

  • Ishida Iori

    From now on, WE can not read and write the girls illusts who is cleaning room.

  • Ishida Iori

    We can think that room-cleaning-robot makes free us from cleaning.

  • Ishida Iori

    When I saw this picture , I thought we can be free from room cleaning.

  • Ishida Iori

    I cant beleve that this picture force woman to room-celaning .

  • EvanAngelis

    Men create all the technology which made cleaning the home easier. Women draws picture of woman cleaning. Women whine. How about some gratitude?

  • Drew

    But you know, we’d all buy one.