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Silicon Valley, The Root Of Tech’s Diversity Problem: AI And Its Inadvertent Bias (Part 5)

Artificial Intelligence, or AI, is advancing rapidly with scientists finding new ways to incorporate it into our daily lives.

AI was defined by Andreas Kaplan and Michael Haenlein as, “a system’s ability to correctly interpret external data, to learn from such data, and to use those learnings to achieve specific goals and tasks through flexible adaptation,” in their study, Siri, Siri, in my hand: Who’s the fairest in the land? On the interpretations, illustrations, and implications of artificial intelligence. 

The origins of AI can be traced back to a Dartmouth workshop, but many of the advancements of the technology has been overseen in Silicon Valley. As great as the advancement of this new form of automation is, there is on problem: because Silicon Valley itself lacks diversity, how can we expect the intuitive tool to be created without its own biases?

With some calling bais AI’s achilles heel, others are questioning if it’s even possible to create an unbiased version of this technology, no matter the circumstances.

Still others are working together, fighting to eliminate the biases that are starting to emerge in electronics interwoven with AI.

It’s hard to imagine a world without technology, and it’s pointless to imagine one where we stop inventing, exploring and advancing. On the other hand, we shouldn’t keep creating things that only benefit a subset class of people, or is at least bias towards them.

 

 

Silicon Valley, The Root Of Tech’s Diversity Problem: Introducing Lena (Part 2)

JPEG, or Joint Photographic Experts Group (the organization that created the standard for the file type), was created and revolutionized by the image of one woman—Playboy centerfold feature, Lena Söderberg.

Image result for Lena Söderberg playboy centerfold

Featured in the November 1972 edition of Playboy, the Swedish model appeared on the centerfold image under the name Lenna Sjööblom, and from then on, that same image would go onto revolutionize digital photography.

Now famously known as “Lenna,” a cropped version of the centerfold was used to illustrate the capabilities of image-processing algorithms in 1973 by a group of graduate students and professors at the University of Southern California. Since then, the scanned image of Lena has become one of the most used image in the history of the Internet and helped transform our computerized images. But has the image also aided in the hindrance of women in the technology industry?

The use of this image has seen its share of [rightful] criticism over the past few decades, with many calling it one of the original reasons that women have such a hard time being taken seriously in the tech community. In a 1999 essay, Dianne P. O’Leary, mathematician and computer scientist, wrote, “Suggestive pictures used in lectures on image processing…convey the message that the lecturer caters to the males only. For example, it is amazing that the “Lena” pin-up image is still used as an example in courses and published as a test image in journals today.” Many people are even starting to use other images in place of hers, despite the historical importance

A lot of controversy remains around the image: does the picture’s historical value surmount the fact that it’s still a picture of a nude woman? I say, for now, let’s leave the past in the past and use some more recent pictures—we have way better camera quality now anyway.

Is Taylor Swift Unknowingly An Icon For Female Coders?

Taylor Swift, 10-time Grammy award winner and one of the most well-known pop singers on the planet, quite possibly has the chance to claim stake at yet another title: Taylor Swift, female coders’ icon.

This might seem like a far-fetched claim, but there have been crazier ones made in the tech community (e.g. anytime Elon Musk tries to tweet anything slightly out of the box.)

SWIFT Code is the standard format for Bank Identifier Codes (BIC) and very different from any of the other thousands of programming languages. It consists of a combination of various letters and numbers that helps identify the branch codes of banks. Obviously this isn’t a common type of code and has a very specific use that most coders will never use, but some programmers have still found a way to attach the computer language to the 29 year old pop star.

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Taylor coding at a young age?

A 2017 study from Qualtrics shows that 76 percent of programmers would rather listen to music instead of podcasts or the news while they work, and Taylor Swift ranks highly on all kinds of engineers’ playlists. The same study also reports that 28 percent of respondents prefer pop music over other genres. John Brandon, contributing editor for Inc.com, has his own theories on Swift (not the code) being a coder’s musical preference and the social sciences behind it.

For further proof, check out Kathryn Hodge’s blog, BlondieBytes, where she dives into programming projects performed by herself and other women that were inspired by the one and only, Taylor Swift.

And yet, the best proof of this theory is the Twitter account, SwiftOnSecurity.

With over 265k followers, the users who runs this account claims to actually be Taylor Swift, while also being an expert on all things cybersecurity and industrial safety, among other related topics. From discussing their experience in IT to being a typical fan account for Swift, SwiftOnSecurity has made bold claims that she is the icon that female coders need.

Swift has yet to make a comment on any of these allegations, and I’m sure everyone is as curious as I am to hear her thoughts on the matter. Say what you will about this theory, but in the meantime, I’ll be Dancing With [my] Hands Tied. Alexa play Shake It Off.