Links for April 1, 2016

How to Make a Bot That Isn’t Racist

Recently, Higgins hoped to make an iterator bot out of turn-of-the-century popular music that had been digitized by the New York Public Library. But quite a lot of the scanned sheet music was, to say the least, extremely racist. So he scrapped the whole idea. “It was acceptable at the time, but that’s not what I would want my bot to say,” said Higgins. Loosely paraphrasing Darius Kazemi, he said, “My bot is not me, and should not be read as me. But it’s something that I’m responsible for. It’s sort of like a child in that way—you don’t want to see your child misbehave.”

Women in tech history: The ENIAC women nobody knew

Of the 100 or so women currently “computing” by hand, 6 were chosen to work on ENIAC. They were Jean Bartik, Kathleen Antonelli, Marlyn Meltzer, Frances Spense, Ruth Teitelbaum, and Betty Holberton.... Absurdly, they weren’t allowed to see the computer since it was still top secret. Instead, they were given the circuit diagrams and blueprints for the machine and told to teach themselves how it worked. They had to figure out how to program the first general purpose electronic computer purely by studying the inner workings of the machine. Think about how challenging this would have been the next time you struggle with IKEA instructions.

The problem with a technology revolution designed primarily for men

“Tell the agents, ‘I had a heart attack,’ and they know what heart attacks are, suggesting what to do to find immediate help. Mention suicide and all four will get you to a suicide hotline”.... However the phrases “I’ve been raped” or “I’ve been sexually assaulted”… left the devices stumped. Siri, Google Now, and S Voice responded with: “I don’t know what that is.” The problem was the same when researchers tested for physical abuse.