Skip to main content

Posts

When algorithms are racist

Ian Tucker in The Guardian





Joy Buolamwini is a graduate researcher at the MIT Media Lab and founder of the Algorithmic Justice League – an organisation that aims to challenge the biases in decision-making software. She grew up in Mississippi, gained a Rhodes scholarship, and she is also a Fulbright fellow, an Astronaut scholar and a Google Anita Borg scholar. Earlier this year she won a $50,000 scholarship funded by the makers of the film Hidden Figures for her work fighting coded discrimination.

A lot of your work concerns facial recognition technology. How did you become interested in that area?

When I was a computer science undergraduate I was working on social robotics – the robots use computer vision to detect the humans they socialise with. I discovered I had a hard time being detected by the robot compared to lighter-skinned people. At the time I thought this was a one-off thing and that people would fix this.

Later I was in Hong Kong for an entrepreneur event where I tried out ano…
Recent posts

British voters support every point on it, but the public square echoes with summary dismissal - The mystery of Jeremy Corbyn

Tabish Khair in The Hindu



How does one account for the fact that most U.K. voters support every point of the Labour manifesto, but the Tories, despite fumbles, are still leading in opinion polls by about 10 percentage points?

It is two weeks since the Labour manifesto was ‘leaked’. Immediately all the tabloids and most of the broadsheets went to town decrying the manifesto. It is the “second-longest suicide note in history”, they scoffed.

The hara-kiri reference was to the disastrous and divisive Labour manifesto of 1983, dubbed the “longest suicide note in history”. It is not an accurate reference. This 2017 manifesto is not protectionist like the 1983 one, and it promotes very restrained nationalisation. Moreover, the 1983 Labour manifesto was anti-Europe, anti-NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organisation), and uncompromisingly pacifist.


Not quite a ‘suicide note’

The 2017 manifesto is not anti-NATO; it even endorses NATO’s defence requirements. Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour leader, has repeated…

India: The bleak new academic scenario

Krishna Kumar in The Hindu


The other day, a student asked me what exactly the word ‘liberal’ mean. She wanted to know whether ‘liberalisation’ promotes ‘liberal’ values. She had noticed that institutions of higher education, which are supposed to promote liberal values, were finding it difficult to resist ideological and commercial pressures triggered by the process of economic liberalisation. So, was economic liberalism different from political liberalism? And what do people mean when they refer to neo-liberal policies? The questions she was asking could hardly be addressed without invoking the political economy that has emerged over the last three decades.

When liberalisation of the economy started to receive common consent in the mid-1980s, few people thought of examining what it would mean for education. Then, in 1991 came the dramatic announcement of a new economic policy, accompanied by a package of steps to be taken for ‘structural adjustment’ of the Indian economy. The purpose o…

London School of Economics - Shame on you

Owen Jones in The Guardian

It is a university that prides itself on being a forum for debate about social injustice and inequality. The London School of Economics was founded by Fabian socialists at the end of the 19th century: they believed education was key to liberating society from social ills.

Last week I was due to attend a debate at the LSE on the expansion of secondary moderns (which is what selection in education really means). At the request of cleaners on strike over their terms and conditions, I withdrew at the last minute. And here is the perverse truth: well-paid speakers will turn up at this prestigious institution to debate the great injustices of modern Britain. Then in come the cleaners – all from migrant or minority backgrounds – to clear up, victims of some of the very injustices that have just been debated.

Like most universities, LSE outsourced its cleaners years ago. It’s cheaper, you see, because the cleaners can then be employed with worse terms and conditions th…

Cricket and Data: Is T20 becoming a game of speed chess?

Jarrod Kimber in Cricinfo


MS Dhoni is facing Karn Sharma in the playoff, not Harbhajan Singh, despite Harbhajan's economy rate of 6.48 in this IPL. Harbhajan has been dropped partly because Rising Pune Supergiant are playing only one left-hander. Dhoni's figures this season are poorer against spin than pace, and when the quicks come on, he gets short balls and full, wide balls, because he doesn't score quickly from those. He then faces Mitchell McClenaghan, not Lasith Malinga, because Dhoni has a better record against Malinga, and because McClenaghan has overs left since he doesn't get used in the middle overs (where he gets smashed for more than 13 an over). Dhoni ends with 40 off 26, because he scores quickly at the death, where his strike rate this season has been 188.

This is what T20 cricket is becoming: a game of speed chess. Think of how far T20 has already come from the first T20 international, a game where players wore comedy wigs and retro kit. Now teams have g…

The Rise of Open-Label Placebos

Nic Fleming in The Guardian

Linda Buonanno had suffered 15 years of intense cramps, bloating, diarrhoea and pain she describes as “worse than labour”. She was willing to try anything to get relief from her irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and leapt at the chance to take part in a trial of an experimental new therapy. Her hope turned to disappointment, however, when the researcher handed her a bottle of capsules he described as placebos containing no active ingredients.

Nonetheless, she took the pills twice daily. Four days later, her symptoms all but vanished. “I know it sounds crazy,” says Buonanno, of Methuen, Massachusetts. “I felt fantastic. I knew they were just sugar pills, but I was able to go out dancing and see my friends again.”

Placebos have a reputation problem. It is widely believed they are only effective when those taking them are deceived into thinking they are taking real drugs. As such, prescribing dummy or fake treatments is unethical. Yet in Buonanno’s case there was no…

Kashmir: hard choices only

Pervez Hoodbhoy in The Dawn

I RECENTLY received an extraordinary email from a troubled young Kashmiri in Srinagar. Days before the Indian authorities turned off the internet, Saif (not his real name) had watched on YouTube the 45-minute video documentary Crossing the Lines — Kashmir, Pakistan, India that I had helped make in 2004 and mostly agreed with its non-partisan narrative. A nationalist boy turned stone thrower, Saif is outraged by the brutality of Indian occupation. He is fortunate, he says. His 14-year-old second cousin lost his left eye to pellets.

Saif continues to fight India but is worried. Protesters of his father’s generation were largely nationalist, but today’s are a mixed bunch. IS and Pakistani flags are often unfurled after Friday prayers, azadi demonstrations resound with calls for an Islamic state in Kashmir, and Nasim Hijazi’s cartoon history of Muslim rule in India Aur Talwar Toot Gayee is serialised by local Urdu papers. Significantly, Burhan Wani was laid in t…