Machines learning depends on who is teaching

ANU historian Marnie Hughes Warrington is exploring the interface between AI and the way we mortals construct our pasts – including tales of tech heroes

In a new essay, another note for a major study of the historicising of AI, she considers the foundation legends of great tech creators and the way they are all blokes. “Think young male genius makes something seemingly impossible in his garage, drops out of university, pushes through adversity, prevails. Sometimes it is a small number of male geniuses. If women appear at all, they make the tea, take notes, or are the subject of the early boom in internet or cybernetic porn.”

Unless they are villains – like Elizabeth Holmes, who told colossal lies about what her blood testing technology at Theranos could do.

This makes her a convenient fall-person for a culture shaped by and steeped in talking up heroic tech creators.

“Ethics in AI is not just a trolley problem where you try to figure out how to avoid hitting people with an autonomous vehicle. It is also at work in the claims about what you can and will do, and the stories you tell about how you got to what you can do. That’s a history ethics problem, and with apologies, us folks in the humanities are technology’s inconvenient truth,” Hughes Warrington suggests.


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