My latest Locus column is Teaching Computers Shows Us How Little We Understand About Ourselves, an essay about how ideas we think of as simple and well-understood -- names, families, fairness in games -- turn out to be transcendentally complicated when we try to define them in rule-based terms for computers. I'm especially happy with how this came out.
Systems like Netflix and Amazon Kindle try to encode formal definitions of "family" based on assumptions about where you live -- someone is in your immediate family if you share a roof -- how you're genetically related -- someone is immediate family if you have a close blood-tie -- how you're legally related -- someone is in your family if the government recognizes your relationship -- or how many of you there are -- families have no more than X people in them. All of these limitations are materially incorrect in innumerable situations.
What's worse, by encoding errors about the true shape of family in software, companies and their programmers often further victimize the already-victimized -- for example, by not recognizing the familial relationship between people who have been separated by war, or people whose marriage is discriminated against by the state on the basis of religion or sexual orientation, or people whose families have been torn apart by violence.
The ambiguity that is inherent in our human lives continues to rub up against our computerized need for rigid categories in ways small and large. Facebook wants to collapse our relationships between one another according to categories that conform more closely to its corporate strategy than reality -- there's no way to define your relationship with your boss as "Not a friend, but I have to pretend he is."
Teaching Computers Shows Us How Little We Understand About Ourselves
Back in 2017, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) approved the most controversial standard in its long history: Encrypted Media Extensions, or EME, which enabled Netflix and other big media companies to use DRM despite changes to browsers extensions that eliminated the kinds of deep hooks that DRM requires.
If you ever find yourself time-traveling to 1975 and need to impersonate a Disneyland Haunted Mansion ride-operator, we've got you covered: just remember that in 1975, food and drinks were absolutely not allowed past the main gate, and that E-tickets should be torn in half and placed in the ticket box. (Thanks, Changa!)
Randy Lubin (previously) writes, "New work is entering the public domain and Mike Masnick and I are hosting a game jam to celebrate. Designers have all of January to design analog and digital games about, inspired by, or remixing works from 1924. We have amazing judges, great prizes, and are excited to see what you […]
Laptops are great when it comes to getting work done on the move, but sometimes you need a better and more responsive keyboard in order to get your work done away from your desktop. Here are six top-rated Bluetooth keyboards that will help you power through your tasks both at the office or while you’re […]
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When it comes to top-quality kitchen gadgets that won’t break the bank, nothing beats Gourmia. These eight best-selling Gourmia tools will help you take your culinary prowesses to the next level, and each one is available for an additional 15% off when you enter the coupon code COOKSAVE15 at checkout. 1. Gourmia GTF7350 6-in-1 Multi-Function […]