Gendered AI: Gender of master

Where we are: To talk about how sci-fi AI attributes correlate, we first have to understand how their attributes are distributed.  In the first distribution post, I presented the foundational distributions for sex and gender presentation across sci-fi AI. Today we’ll discuss the gender of the AI’s master.

As always, you can read the Gendered AI posts in order or check out the source data for more information.

Gender of Master

In the prior post I shared the distributions for subservience. And while most sci-fi AI are free-willed, what about the rest? Those poor digital souls who are compelled to obey someone, someones, or some thing? What is the gender of their master?

Of course this becomes much more interesting when later we see the correlation against the gender of the AI, but the distribution is also interesting in and of itself. The gender options of this variable are the same as the options for the gender of the AI character, but the master may not be AI.

Before we get to the breakdown, this bears some notes, because the question of master is more complicated than it might first seem.

  • If a character is listed as free-willed, I set their master as N/A (Not Applicable). This may ring false in some cases. For example, the characters in Westworld can be shut down with near-field command signals, so they kind of have “masters.” But, if you asked the character themselves, they are completely free-willed and would smash those near-field signals to bits, given the chance. N/A is not shown in this chart because masterlessness does not make sense when looking at masters.
  • Similarly, there are AI characters listed as free-willed but whose “job” entails obedience to some superior; like BB-8 in the Star Wars diegesis, who is an astromech droid, and must obey a pilot. But since BB-8 is free to rebel and quit his job if he wants to, he is listed as free-willed and therefore has a master of N/A.
  • If a character had an obedience directive like, “obey humans,” the gender of the master is tagged as “Multiple.” Because Multiple would not help us understand a gender bias, it is not shown on the chart.
  • The Terminator robots were a tough call, since in the movies in which most of them appear, Skynet is their master, and it does not gain a gender until Terminator Salvation, when it appears on screen as a female. Later it infects a human body that is male in Terminator Genisys. Ultimately I tagged these characters as having a master of the gender particular to their movie. Up to Salvation it’s None. In Salvation it’s female, and in Genisys it’s male.

So, with those notes, here is the distribution. It’s another sausagefest.

Again, we see the masters are highly skewed male. This doesn’t distinguish between human male and AI male, which partly accounts for the high biologically male value compared to male. Note that sex ratios in Hollywood tend towards 2:1 male:female for actors, generally. So the 12:1 (aggregating sex) that we see here cannot be written off as a matter inherited from available roles. Hollywood tells us that men are masters.

The 12:1 sex ratio cannot be written off as a matter inherited from available roles. It’s something more.

Oh, and it’s not a mistake in the data, there are no socially female AI characters who are masters of another AI of any gender presentation. That leaves us with 5 female masters, countable on one hand, and the first two can be dismissed as a technicality, since these were identities adopted by Skynet as a matter of convenience.

  1. Skynet-as-Kogan is master of John, the T-3000, from Terminator Genisys
  2. Skynet-as-Kogan is master of the T-5000 from Terminator Genisys
  3. Barbarella is master of Alphy from Barbarella
  4. VIKI is master of the NS-5 robots from I, Robot
  5. Martha is master of Ash in Black Mirror, “Be Right Back”

Leave a Reply