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WolframAlpha and the rush to racism

The article in Gizmodo that says that WolframAlpha is racist is ridiculous. Yes, if you search at WA for “dumb,” you get a graphic “synonym network” of associations that leads to “black,” but can we please apply the most basic rule of sympathetic reading and come up with the much more plausible explanation: The network goes from “dumb” to “dim” to a bunch of words related to “dim,” including “black.” This makes WA as racist as Google’s “wonderwheel” for “dumb” leading directly to “dumb blondes” makes Google sexist.

(BTW, those WA synonym trees are pretty useless, at least in Firefox, at least on my computer; hovering over a node doesn’t reveal which word it represents. Maybe it’s just my furshlugginer configuration.)

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2 Responses to “WolframAlpha and the rush to racism”

  1. Of course, it ridiculous to judge WA is racist because of this particular synonym network.

    But such stupid accusation may surface with increasing frequency until Wolfram take a step to reveal what in fact is “Wolfram curated data”.

    While that Gizmo allegation was totally stupid (as pointed out by the comments on Gizmo itself) – there is the real possibility that WA “computing engine”, using the famous “curated data” will conjure up something that may shatter WA reputation….

    I think Steven should take this blatant allegation as a warning ….

  2. That’s true, Mirek. I looked for the source of the synonyms and couldn’t tell exactly which source matched to which data.


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