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May 25, 2009

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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