Keynote Speaker

Lisa Tuttle

Is Technology Gendered?:
Thoughts from the Borders of Science Fiction and Feminism

As a feminist and science fiction writer/reader/viewer/fan I will discuss the role of science fiction in creating our ideas about new technology, and consider some technologies that, while not yet real, are widely expected to bring about radical changes when they are developed: artificial intelligence, new reproductive technologies, extreme life extension techniques, and sexbots.

In “SF and Technology as Mystification” (1979) Joanna Russ pointed out that most discussions about the threats and promises of new technology obfuscated the reality of what lurked behind “tehnology”: “a much bigger monster: capitalism in its advanced, industrial phase.” Gwyneth Jones, in 1994 wrote about the connections between cyberspace fiction and the reality of the emerging internet: “Cyberspace will be ruled, like all our worlds, not by the thinking mind and its aspirations but by the greedy dreamer: that alliance of appetite and aggression we call ‘commercial interest and state control,’ to conceal from ourselves the fact that we ourselves choose to have things run that way.”

Be careful what you wish for: this moral is found in ancient legends and modern fiction. The short answer to the question raised in my title: yes, of course, like everything else in our society. And because of that, women are more likely to be ignored, marginalized, and damaged by the unintended consequences of many new developments in science. SF is one way of thinking about technology, but an active, thoughtful, critical feminism is more important; vital if we have any hope of shaping non-gendered technologies in the future.

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