Most of us already attribute gender to machines: cars are typically female, in accordance with the dominant Western ideology in which what pertains to the body is feminine; whilst the computer is invariably male, supporting (outrageously) the associated 'masculinity' of intellect. Machines such as cars and motorbikes have also become symbols of power, and - for some men sadly - of sexual potency and virility. Many of us would acknowledge the sexual overtones involved in the experience of riding a motorbike. We even treat machines as if they had personalities. The attribution of gender to machines may in itself involve stereotypically gendered traits such as supposed female capriciousness or supposed male truculence. And who can have avoided attributing malicious intent to a recalcitrant photocopier, toaster or computer? 'It has a will of its own', we mutter or scream. Indeed, are there not days when the entire world of devices seems to be conspiring together against us to frustrate our purposes?
But then again there are drivers who love their cars or motorbikes, writers who love their typewriters or word processors, programmers who love their computers. We may both love and hate our machines; indeed both emotions may be inspired in an individual user by the same machine at different times. We project our feelings into the tools we use. Marshall McLuhan spoke of all technologies as 'the extensions of man' (his sexist language probably deserves the obvious sexual joke). To skilled users tools may be experienced as extensions of themselves. Quite apart from medical prosthetics, we have long existed in a symbiotic relationship with mechanisms, and we do so increasingly as technology saturates the environments in which we live and work.
In using even the simplest tool we are always to some extent used ourselves. The use of tools can subtly transform our purposes. And increasing complexity may serve simply to increase the subtlety of such transformative influences. The spread of computers - perhaps the most 'responsive' of devices - has been accompanied by an an even greater inclination to treat machines as closely related to us. So closely, in fact, that we more and more easily slip into talking not only about computers as if they were human but also of ourselves as if we were no more than computers.
Speculative fiction and films dramatize our feelings, hopes and fears about technology. I will not confine myself to science fiction (or SF as aficionados call it, rather than 'sci-fi'). The SF genre is stereotypically associated with technology, though its apologists regard it as far broader than this. Here I will consider fictive images of technology in general.