RE: Gender Neutral Pronouns

From: John Smart (
Date: Fri Mar 30 2001 - 18:11:58 MST

Nice idea, Dale and Eli.

Early motorcars, airplanes, and other such emergent and disruptive
technological entities were given "she, " so there is long historical
precedence. It does have the advantages of implying a self-reproductive
capacity (parthenogenesis anyone?) as well, which is the essence of these

I still think it/the entity/the system/the hyperconsciousness/the AI, etc.
is better, but I agree that the occasional she would be a significant

Glad to see you are receptive to considering this, Eli. You've always struck
me as a really plastic individual (I'm sure you know the positive sense in
which I use the term.)


Understanding Accelerating Change

> -----Original Message-----
> From: []On Behalf
> Of Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
> Sent: Friday, March 30, 2001 10:49 AM
> To:
> Subject: Re: Gender Neutral Pronouns
> Dale Johnstone wrote:
> >
> > I've always thought it rather silly to refer to a ship as a 'she'
> > because it's not alive. However referring to an AI as a 'she' sounds
> > quite reasonable. Okay, so there's the small technicality of it
> > having no gender, but people naturally tend to anthropomorphize
> > anyway - it maps rather well onto how people think.
> This analogy honestly never occurred to me - to refer to AIs as "she" by
> analogy with, say, a ship. Okay, now I'm seriously considering switching
> to using "he" for humans and "she" for AIs. I just need to decide whether
> it's worth the switch, irrespective of:
> 1) How much of a pain in the neck it would be to rewrite everything;
> 2) Whether the more foolish members of the male audience are likely to be
> less afraid of something that's referred to as "she".
> Both of these factors, of course, are ethically excluded from the
> calculation.
> James Higgins wrote:
> >
> > May very well be true, but 've' still sounds goofy. I hear more stupid
> > comments about those pronouns than anything else in the papers when I
> > suggest others read them. That indicates to me that they are a problem.
> Now *that* has an impact on me. (Why? Usually, when I hear someone say
> "Other people won't like X.", my response is "Take responsibility for your
> own reactions; if you don't like X, say so." But if you're actually
> *seeing* other people react badly...)
> -- -- -- -- --
> Eliezer S. Yudkowsky
> Research Fellow, Singularity Institute for Artificial Intelligence

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