Re: Gender Neutral Pronouns

From: Eliezer S. Yudkowsky (
Date: Thu Mar 29 2001 - 15:17:04 MST

John Smart wrote:
> I find this entirely correct, even if a bit harsh on Eli, who is simply
> trying to move beyond sexism in a structured way in his writing.

Not really. Moving beyond sexism is relatively easy; you just use the
plural whenever possible, or "he/she", or, failing that, pick "he" or
"she" at random. I now use a random pick in any sentence that deals with
a single concrete human (rather than a single indefinite human). For the
indefinite human, I use "they", or "he/she", or a random pick. I use a
random pick in any sentence in which I need to keep humans and AIs
separate, or which refers to more than one human.

I no longer use "ve" for the human indefinite pronoun, because I've come
to realize that "ve" denotes the specific nonhuman gender of neutrality,
and is not appropriate for a human, who is either male or female.

> But the real point is, we are already rapidly moving beyond sex having
> future-relevance.

Well, if we are going to argue equality and politics: An AI isn't a "he"
or a "she", but an AI isn't an "it" either. The Lois McMaster Bujold
novels that use "it" as a pronoun for hermaphroditic humans have even more
"throw-you-off-your-stride" than Greg Egan's use of the word "ve" for
neutral humans.

-- -- -- -- --
Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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