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10/23/11

#Racism and #Technology in the 21st Century

Racism is a touchy subject, and will be for years to come.  Recently a law passed in Alabama regarding illegal immigration, and almost immediately anyone with brown skin became a "Damn Mexican" and was harassed to go back to Mexico.  Where you are for or against illegal immigration laws, the basic public ignorance will make your stomach turn.  (check out this article for more)

A lot of racism, though, is probably unintentional.  Take technology for example.  Computers with webcams now fave facial recognition technology, and will automatically zoom and center on your face when it sees it.

...unless you're black.  Then it can't see you.


This video has been passed around the internet for a few years now.  It's funny, but brings up an interesting point:  When building technology, do you HAVE to think a little bit about race?  Absolutely.  Because the software doesn't work for black people, I'm assuming nobody on the testing team had dark skin.

...just like I'm assuming the testers of this camera were probably not Asian...


...which is interesting, because the Headquarters for Nikon is in Tokyo.

If there is not a diversity of engineers making this technology, I understand.  Same with Quality Control.  But when product testing, maybe you have to think a little bit racist.   Not to be a bigot, but to make sure the technology capabilities work for a diverse group of people.

This makes me wonder... would a vehicle with voice recognition understand Ebonics?  Or redneck?  Or English with a heavy accent from another culture?  Anybody want to test that out for me and let me know?

If you have experienced a technologial goof-up due to race or culture, please share below.  Thanks!
Please Share it! :)

10 witty retorts:

Lacy said...

To answer one of your questions, I live in Kentucky and the voice recognition on my car cannot deal with my accent. I never use it because I got tired if repeating myself 10 times.

Pickleope said...

Lacy, that's hilarious. So is the fact that a product made by Asian people is racist against Asian people. The only racism I've encountered is that my black friends assumed I couldn't dance but I was really good at bowling. The opposite is true, I dance like Timberlake and bowl like Timberlake (I assume he can't bowl very well, I may be wrong).

Thank, Q said...

LOL! This is funny. As for voice recognition, OnStar and other voice command software doesn't recognize Ebonics. My reasoning for that is: Ebonics is not a language!

As for the Nikon camera, that's just funny. Technology can only do so much as let's be honest, it's still a white man's world, so I'm not surprised if certain tech items favor them. It's not like black people buy a lot of electronics any way. We, well, not me, but we spend our money on $5 clothes that have $150 price tags on them.

Leila said...

I think saying the inability to recognize "ebonics" as racist is asinine. By saying it's racist, you're implying that Ebonics is the "black" language or blacks are only capable of improper grammar. Oh the irony!

I don't think it's racism when technology functions the way it does. You can't market for every single nuance in the human race.

Alice X said...

With so called smart technology out there you'd think they'd have tested it on people of different races. Not so smart after all are they?

D4 said...

They really should. I'm not Asian and even I get the stupid "did someone blink?" thing. Squinty eyes, man.

Lemons Don't Make Lemonade said...

I never thought about it this way before. Great post. :D

But yes, you definitely have to go racist for products like this.

Zombie said...

damn racist camera!! lol.

gotjack28 said...

This is actually really insightful. Looking forward to following you.

meandmythinkingcap said...

Reminds me of episode in "Better off Ted" where they would automate lights to save energy but it would turn on and off lights only to whites and then for every black they would hire a dumb white guy and he would follow him around just to turn on and off lights. Funny

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