This paper considers some of the complexities and possibilities of “creating” new visions of gender, whether in the descriptions of science fiction or the robot designs of science fact. A discussion of science fiction examples that complicate and extend ideas of gender in society is combined with an interrogation of various examples from present day robotics laboratories. Through this consideration my paper explores some of the constraints of language and culture, and asks whether it is possible for an “it” of a world to be valued as a person, and even as a friend.
The discussion is divided into two sections. The first explores the problems of creating humanoid robots that look male or female as opposed to those created as androgynous. Does the creation of humanoid robots simply perpetuate existing dualisms and inequalities in human stereotypes, or might these robots overcome such categorisation?
In the second section, the paper moves on to consider the broader possibilities offered by creating non-humanoid robots, presenting the idea of the “it” becoming an intelligent and interactive being rather than an object. Do these robots offer richer possibilities for encouraging human society to value others of all kinds as friends, with their own particular and important “situated knowledges”?