Posted on January 31, 2024

Academic Demands Diversity Because There Are Too Many White Robots

Denette Wilford, Toronto Sun, January 29, 2024


Mark Paterson, a professor of sociology at the University of Pittsburgh, looked at why so many robots are white and the “problems of racial and gender bias in artificial intelligence algorithms and the data used to train large language models like ChatGPT.”

But Paterson wrote in The Conversation that these issues are now showing up in robots, “which have physical bodies modelled on nonthreatening versions of humans or animals and are designed to interact with people.”

He claimed that some robots are meant to interact with more diverse groups of people, such as helping people on the autism spectrum, children with special needs and stroke patients who need physical rehab.

But the robots “do not look like people or interact with people in ways that reflect even basic aspects of society’s diversity.”

Paterson believes it’s only going to get worse.

“Rates of diagnoses for autism in children of colour are now higher than for white kids in the U.S., and many of these kids could end up interacting with white robots.”


Paterson noted that aside from ethnically Japanese-looking robots, which tend to follow that subservient female gender stereotype, non-white robots are rare.


He suggested changing robots’ appearances so they are “less universally white and female” and “reflect the diversity of people” {snip}