The Cycle of Women in Robotics from Vicious to Virtue ?

The nature of robotics and AI makes vicious cycles for all kinds of vulnerable and underrepresented groups.

It is no secret that engineers and scientists around the world are disproportionately men and without disrupting this norm, the lack of women in robotics will continue to self-perpetuate.

What are Vicious and Virtue Cycle?

The terms virtuous circle and vicious circle, also known respectively as virtuous cycle and vicious cycle, refer to complex chains of events that reinforce themselves through a feedback loop. A virtuous circle has favorable results, while a vicious circle has detrimental results. Both circles are complex chains of events with no tendency toward equilibrium

Fewer women scientists lead to less studying or celebrating the experiences, successes and lives of women in relation to STEM. This gender data gap means robotics and AI solutions are created in a gendered way – reflecting the lived experience of men over women. This in turn means that women lose out on the benefits and disproportionately feel the downsides, which alienates them from STEM roles, bringing us back to where we started – a lack of women in STEM.

The ethicist who studies the ethics of robotics and AI, are consistently asking questions about how to design better robotics products in order to achieve what call responsible robotics. Responsible robotics is about the design process as well as the product itself. It is concerned with the material from which the product is made, how it will interact with people, as well as the consequences of using it. The concept of a gender data gap provides a platform for asking questions specific to gender, diversity and inclusion in robotics. Giving voice – and therefore data – to women’s experiences with robots is one important obstacle to overcome in order to achieve the responsible design, development, and regulation of robotics.

In the early days of the research assistant who worked in a robotics institute.

Their role involved training surgeons on the various surgical robots and testing performance. The focus was on how to measure accuracy and efficiency, but whilst accuracy in surgery is incredibly important, there was a need to consider the bigger picture of how technology will impact in the contexts in which it is used. In surgery the pre and post-operative period are crucial for the well-being of the patient, as are the people responsible for patient support during these periods. Nurses will tell you that due to the introduction robots in surgery their entire role changed. New skills had to be learned and new responsibilities were delegated.

For example, robotic surgery led to shorter hospital stays for patients, meaning that nurses had to train family members to care for their loved ones at home. However, none of this contributed to the evaluation of the robot. None of this is currently included in the history of the introduction of the surgical robot. And if this continues, none of this will be used to develop and implement the next generation of surgical robots.

Robots are also designed for other tasks like lifting, bathing, and feeding patients. And this trend extends well beyond the walls of the hospital. Robot vacuum cleaners, sanitizers, secretaries, educators, lovers, etc. are all currently under development and in use. Each of these tasks and roles represent moments in which if we’re not careful the crucial experience of females could be missed to the detriment of society.

This is the vicious cycle we find ourselves in. The nature of robotics and AI makes vicious cycles like these for all kinds of vulnerable and underrepresented groups, not to mention the environment if we don’t consider electronic waste. We must find opportunities to disrupt this vicious cycle and turn it into a virtuous one, and this begins with closing the gender data gap. Such a task requires that need identifying who is responsible for what?

It also requires policy makers, educators, and heads of tech to foster inclusiveness in robotics, including intervening to increase the presence of women in robotics. It doesn’t have to mean turning every woman into a roboticist, but acknowledging the fact that women and men experience the world differently and will both have invaluable insight into how robots should be designed and developed.

There is also need to re-consider the kinds of (empirical) research going on to study the impacts of robots. Women in robotics will be users and will be impacted by robot products, and it is time to give voice to their experiences. Employers, academics, and policy makers in the robotics space need to actively engage the female voice through qualitative and quantitative methods of study in human-robot interactions.

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