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Correspondence article by Eduard Fosch-Villaronga in Nature Machine Intelligence

Robot technology is flourishing in multiple sectors of society, including retail, health care, industry and education. However, are robots representative towards minority groups of society, like LGBTQ+ people?

Eduard Fosch Villaronga

In a new short paper in the journal Nature Machine Intelligence (€), Adam Poulsen from the School of Computing and Mathematics, Charles Sturt University, Australia, Dr Eduard Fosch-Villaronga from eLaw - Center for Law and Digital Technologies at Leiden University, and Dr Roger A. Søraa from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology, Department of Interdisciplinary Studies of Culture discuss what a queering of robots might entail.

Understanding how machines affect the LGBTQ+ community appears largely underexplored, the researchers found. Only a few works in the literature address LGBTQ+ matters in the design of robots and AI. One illustrative example is a recent study that analysed several drag queen Twitter accounts using ‘Perspective’, an AI-driven tool measuring toxicity levels of online content created by Jigsaw (a subsidiary of Alphabet). The tool flagged these accounts with greater frequency than other obviously toxic profiles, such as white supremacists. Without understanding the context entirely, AI-driven content moderation tools could hinder the free-speech of marginalised communities.

The researchers conclude that it is imperative that we construct mechanisms and policies that acknowledge the importance of inclusivity, diversity, and non-discrimination, also for the LGBTQ+ community in the development and use of robots and AI.

Fosch-Villaronga and his co-authors highlight the lack of inclusion of queer perspectives on robots and machines. This, they argue, should be better recognised in both the research and design of the robots of the future, and should prod developers and designers to be more inclusive in how they build and create the machines that increasingly walk, talk and act among us.

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