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Kenya believe Xi AI must be crazy?

One of the joys of living in a mid-Atlantic state here in the USA is the opportunity to feast on Chesapeake Bay callinectes sapidus in a regional delicacy known as crab pick'n. It's not for the squeamish because you've got to pull apart a steamed crab, piece by piece, and use every ounce of dexterity your nimble fingers possess to fill your belly but for those who make the effort the rewards are rich. Last weekend I was spreading newspaper across my dining room table and preparing to dump a bushel of blues in front of a group of hungry humans when my eye caught something very unusual - impossible really - it was the Sunday Review section of the NYTimes.  As long time readers of the KOTCB blog know, I do not buy the New York Times and have not done so since October 1994 so seeing the newsprint on the table came as something of a shock. Front and center was Michael Eric Dyson's question "Barack Obama, the President of Black America?" from the June 26th edition. MED is obsessed with race and I usually ignore racialist rantings because their weighting of almost any issue is refracted by the colorful prisms in their mind to deliver one, unambiguous truth - race matters. But what the hell, I read it anyway.

So it starts with Obama's "sermon" at Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, SC during a memorial for the poor souls that were massacred by a psychopath.

"Mr. Obama was at his best when he was at his blackest. It was a rare display of unapologetic race pride."

And the fact that it was a "rare display" is problematic for professor Dyson "because black America has carried on an unrepentant love affair with Mr. Obama" for a simple but profound reason - "His black brain and tongue have changed America forever." But he has not changed it enough and if you have the temerity to point it out, as MED does, you get accused of "racial treason" by the Obama administration.

"The Obama administration’s resentment of black criticism (me) hasn’t kept it from tapping the deep well of black solidarity. Thus it is a one-way street: African-Americans should never bother as a group to request that Mr. Obama be held accountable as a black man, yet the Obama administration has from the start skillfully exploited the always strong support for the president."

Sure, he's assigned some black folks to cabinet level positions and seeded the Federal Judiciary with people of color, but his latest Supreme Court nominee is lily white Merrick Garland (“Yeah, he’s a white guy, but he’s a really outstanding jurist. I’m sorry. I mean, you know, I think that’s important.”) and call me naïve but that seems like a missed opportunity.

It has been dispiriting, too, to hear the president remind his most loyal constituents that he is “not the president of black America” — as if they were naïve enough to believe that he represented only, or primarily, black interests.

It all comes down to something MED terms "strategic inadvertency" which is a short way of saying this:

“I’ve got to look out for all Americans, and do things based on what will help people across the board who are vulnerable and who need help.”

A strange, anti-tribal and wonderfully American concept to be sure, but one that Michael Eric Dyson has trouble processing, his mind being what it is, so the translation that comes out the other side is this:

He has been reluctant to speak about race, and hesitant to champion the causes of a valuable, if vulnerable, black constituency. He was not always free to relax into his blackness, out of fear that it would frighten white America. 

"Honestly, Michael, I think your skin is whiter than mine."

Frightening "white America" (whatever that is) seems to me to be the least of Barack Obama's worries for surly, there has never been a more comfortable and unthreatening black man on the face of the planet than our current president. With his pressed suit and tie, beautiful family, golf clubs and summer play list he's the embodiment of what civil rights protesters in the 1960's envisioned when they marched and suffered to attain full voting rights for blacks in the USA. So MED might want to consider a different reason that it's so hard for the FBPOTUS to "relax into his blackness" and that reason starts in Mother Africa.

“They know that you’re not real happy with them and so the only way they figure they’re going to win this election is if they make you scared of me,” Obama continued, repeating an attack from earlier in the day. “What they’re saying is ‘Well, we know we’re not very good but you can’t risk electing Obama. You know, he’s new, he doesn’t look like the other presidents on the currency, he’s a got a funny name.’”

Though it's true that Obama doesn't look like other presidents pictured on US currency, he doesn't look much like his Treasury Department's proposed replacement either. That's because Harriet Tubman was born into slavery in the state of Maryland and that means she was almost certainly the descendant of West African's captured and sold as human chattel to slavers working the triangle trade. You might not think that fact effects Obama's relaxation, but when you consider the size and diversity of the Dark Continent I think you'll see what I'm getting at because on a purely genetic and physiological level, not to mention tribal and cultural affinity, Barack Obama has very little in common with the vast majority (like 99%) of African-Americans.

Anyone with even a rudimentary understanding of Africa know that the people who populate Sierra Leone are nothing like the people who populate Kenya - They're customs, traditions and even their physical appearance are radically different. Even Obama's xenophobic, parochial and naïve supporters should be able to figure this out by doing a little simple math plotted against the map. The distance between Freetown and Mombassa is approximately the same distance between Honolulu and Dallas and if you think there's anything in common between the Kānaka Maoli and the Wichita I'd love to know what it is. They aren't the same people even though they are both indigenous to territory and anyone who claimed, for whatever reason, that they are the same people would have to be considered a racist. It's not an insignificant point in that a particular and subtle part of Barack's appeal to "white America" is the fact that he doesn't "look" black in the way that all the other Tubman blacks look - he looks like something else. Yes, he's got the melanin and the voice, but he doesn't look like a West African black person at all. In fact #44 looks a hell of a lot like Xi the affable and unthreatening hero of the 1980's South African comedy "The Gods Must be Crazy."

In the film a simple tribesman finds a discarded Coke bottle and can't understand how it came to be so he sets out on a journey to dispose of the mysterious object forever. The mind of the nomadic herdsman can not process the reality of a mass produced glass object with no discernible purpose and the villagers come to believe that the object of confusion is evil. The epic trek to the end of the earth brings Xi into contact and conflict with many people but finally, with a little help from his newfound "white" friends our hero reaches his final destination and looks into the abyss - and the abyss looks back at him.

Obama prepares to launch another drone attack

The Black Box Problem

And this points to a second issue effecting Obama's ability to "relax into his blackness" that serendipitously was illuminated in a different op-ed printed in that same NYTimes Sunday Review by Kate Crawford (of Microsoft) titled "Artificial Intelligence’s White Guy Problem." Message: "Our world is increasingly shaped by discriminatory algorithms" because the people who program AI's are predominately white - in all honesty, many AI developers are not "white" but it is true that there are few women and blacks in the AI profession - or something like white (Indians are technically caucasians and Asians are, well, let's just move on...). She starts of with a bang - first paragraph states that AI might eliminate humanity (ho-hum) but then gets down to the real problem. 

But this hand-wringing is a distraction from the very real problems with artificial intelligence today, which may already be exacerbating inequality in the workplace, at home and in our legal and judicial systems. Sexism, racism and other forms of discrimination are being built into the machine-learning algorithms that underlie the technology behind many “intelligent” systems that shape how we are categorized and advertised to.
Take a small example from last year: Users discovered that Google’s photo app, which applies automatic labels to pictures in digital photo albums, was classifying images of black people as gorillas. Google apologized; it was unintentional.
But similar errors have emerged in Nikon’s camera software, which misread images of Asian people as blinking, and in Hewlett-Packard’s web camera software, which had difficulty recognizing people with dark skin tones.
This is fundamentally a data problem. Algorithms learn by being fed certain images, often chosen by engineers, and the system builds a model of the world based on those images. If a system is trained on photos of people who are overwhelmingly white, it will have a harder time recognizing nonwhite faces.

OK, a lot to unpack here, but it needs to be done.

1. Kate Crawford is a principle researcher at Microsoft Corp. AND the co-chairwoman of a White House symposium on society and A.I. so she's supposed to know what she's talking about, right? The "very real problem" with A.I. is NOT facial recognition software or white programmers, but is, even in this context, the merciless logic of the machine - The politically incorrect ruthlessness of it's binary judgement which separates the wheat from the chaff of humanity like a efficient, tireless, heartless thresher.
2. Zapping Google for their photo app classifying black people as gorillas and ignoring the greatest (and funniest) AI fuck-up, hands down, of the past 12 months which sprung from the brainiacs in Redmond sounds like a cheap shot to me. "It was unintentional?" - of course it was unintentional you bimbo! Who the hell would program their AI to classify black people as gorillas? No one, certainly not Google, so applying Occam's razor to this puzzling AI output we must conclude... oops, never mind, um, we're working on the algorithms.
3. What white person wrote the code for Nikon's camera software? You think those guys let a Gaijin anywhere near that project.
4. These are not data problems - they are human problems that the data is exposing and tossing back in our facial recognition meta-mind. Deal with it human.
5.  The people, whatever color they are, who develop AI facial recognition systems are not doing so using family photos from their laptop. They are using millions of anonymous photos from all over the world that contain pictures of every ethnic group on God's green earth and the implication that developers are doing anything other than that is pure, politically motivated, baloney.

It goes on from there to discuss crime detection, job advertising and oppression with the admonition that "like all technologies before it, artificial intelligence will reflect the values of its creators." This statement is probably false because AI has the promise/threat to be much different and more powerful than "all technologies before it", but it does describe Obama's black box problem and the undeniably affluent white programming that went into his "black brain" (Dyson's words, NOT mine) during his formative years in Hawaii where he was raised by his pale grandparents and attended a top flight prep school filled with the whitest of the white whities on earth.

Yes, the FBPOTUS is half white and, as MED would (but never will) say, he thinks like a white person. As president he's lead the USA as a doctrinaire, left wing Democrat no different than John Kerry or Al Gore. When he sits down across the table from Mitch McConnel or Paul Ryan I'll bet the blackness of his brain is about the furthest thing from his mind - he probably feels like he's back in his 9th grade current events class at Punahou School shoot'n the shit with two white nerds. No big deal, not carrying the weight of Black America on his shoulders, just politics man... what a game. But he's got what every white, left wing, social justice warrior would love to have, but doesn't - his father was Kenyan so he's "black." That simple, physiological fact acts as a shield against any criticism of the behavior that emerges from the "black box" of his brain and the complex calculations and mystical weighting it assigns various issues fed into it. There is no "relaxing into blackness" for BHO because that relaxation was never "programmed" into him during his formative years but instead he was indoctrinated with an ideology that "mirrors a narrow and privileged vision of society, with its old, familiar biases and stereotypes."


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