The Unlikely Techie – Medium

It is time to shift the focus from design to the impact of decision-making systems

We turn to technology to find solutions to our everyday problems and look up information — decision-making systems powered by algorithms. Algorithms are finite sets of instructions to perform computations. Kristan Lum and Rumman Chowdhury described “a decision-making system as an “algorithm” is often a way to deflect accuntability for human decisions.” They suggest shifting the focus from system design to the impact of these systems for more accountability.

But how do the authors come to this conclusion? There are several reasons for this because one thing is clear: These systems reveal weak points again and again. In explaining these…


The world is unprepared for AI to be unleashed on unprotected citizens

Are we soon going to connect a charging cable to the chip in our brain before we go to bed? Or, will we be wiped out by killer robots like spam, a fear that Elon Musk has already expressed? What if AI is not the best thing to happen to humanity, but the worst?

There are primarily two kinds of fears regarding AI technologies: the risk that AI will become cognizant and seek to eliminate us or that the wrong people get a hold of AI technology to cause harm. Stephen Hawking publicly said he believed AI to be either…


The consequence of a lack of inclusion and impartiality

Two huge things went wrong in the internet era: lack of inclusion and lack of impartiality. Therefore, it is hardly surprising that in less than 24 hours, Microsoft’s AI bot Tay began tweeting racist and inflammatory statements, and Google’s deep learning platform misidentified gorillas and dark-skinned people in pictures. Against this background, it does not appear very reasonable to leave it up to companies to define the values implemented in AI applications.

If we keep in mind that over half of the world is still offline today and can’t benefit from the latest technologies, it is clear that this disparity…


Wild affairs, secret pregnancies, lavish parties, and military standoffs in the highest aristocratic circles

Romy Schneider’s performance as Sissi in the famous movie series made Empress Elisabeth of Austria, nicknamed Sissi, an icon. Much is known about the tragedies in her life and her love story with Emperor Franz Joseph. However, the empress had four sisters and five brothers, two of whom unfortunately died shortly after birth. How did Sissi’s sisters live? What are their stories?

Growing up in Munich’s Duke-Max Palace as close family members of the reigning Wittelsbach dynasty, they had a lovely childhood. Their father was Duke Max Joseph, their mother, Princess Ludovika Wilhelmine. The family spent the summer months, so…


The internet might seem like a level playing field. It is not.

Why is the assumption that technology is neutral still prevailing, although studies have shown time and time again that it perpetuates racism by reinforcing western power structures?

This question inadvertently came up after reading With this Black History Month misstep, Google forgot how racist the internet is by Jelani Drew. Last month, Google prominently promoted and advertised a new feature to make it easier for everyone to find Black-owned businesses. However, they did not consider the downside of this feature. Companies and customers noticed and felt the downside right away: a surge of overwhelmingly racist reviews on business profiles. These…


What needs to happen for philosophy to cut through the noise?

We are running out of time. Recently, I argued that philosophy as we know it is dead because there are no real explanations for how today’s western society works. And, even more importantly, I argued that philosophy needs to become more agile, faster, audacious, and more diverse.

On some accounts, philosophy relates to the high art of seeking and finding meaning in life and the world around us; philosophy was a driving force to make sense of society, power, and — most importantly — politics. …


Teaching machines right from wrong might prove to be an impossible task

Dal Spooner never trusted robots. He resented them for their cold logic based solely on Asimov’s principles — a rather mathematical approach to moral principles. The box office hit I, Robot highlighted the grey areas of what it means to be human, or, in reverse, a genuinely honest machine.

Although scientists and engineers are yet to establish artificial general intelligence (AGI), the highest form of intelligence, we need to ask ourselves how this AGI-capable machine would potentially act, feel, and the reason is imperative. Even narrow AI applications today need to react to situations such as an autonomous vehicle’s need…


The story of Mae West, the satirical, brilliant, and down-to-earth film goddess of the pre-code Hollywood era

Born in 1893, in Brooklyn, Mae West repudiated the idea of living a life as a Victorian housewife. Taking a sledgehammer to outdated views on women, her humorous, direct, and satirical attacks against the double standards of puritanical society made her the best-paid film actress in the world for a time.

This rebel was more down-to-earth and tangible than other great actresses of her time, such as Greta Garbo or Marlene Dietrich. Unlike her peers, she created the image she wanted of herself by herself. She knew how to perfectly balance her satirical side with her sexuality, making her a…


Not answering the “but should we” question in AI applications can have disastrous consequences

A new study reinflamed my long-standing problem with facial recognition technology. In it, scientists claimed that facial recognition could expose the political orientation of individuals. The study conducted by Michal Kosinski, Facial recognition technology, can disclose political orientation from naturalistic facial images argues that the faces of liberals and conservatives consistently differ (at least in the US., Canada, and the UK). Spoiler alert, it cannot.

It may be that by selecting participants, they had a controlled data set that could be considered appropriate for this research. However, I beg to differ on two different levels. Firstly, there are a lot…


Working in tech without a technical background can have its perks

Image of trail to mountains — scenic
Image of trail to mountains — scenic

I bet you love it just as much as I do to walk into a room of strangers who all seem to have an opinion of you. You know, extraordinary situations like walking into a meeting room and having to introduce yourself to your new co-workers or meeting your partner’s parents for the first time.

What if they hate me?

When I first started working at a tech company, I was continually worrying whether I could prevail. What if my engineer co-workers don’t like what I say or what I’ve studied? …

The Unlikely Techie

History. Philosophy. Technology. Interested in people, tech, and politics. Asking questions and telling stories. Check out my blog unlikelytechie.com!

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