Computers are stupid

Two recent but fairly typical interactions lately serve to remind me just how stupid computers really still are.

Every time I upload pictures to Facebook, it can’t tell the difference between a photograph of a person that I know and an image from advertising, artwork, street art, or otherwise, and asks me to indicate which of my friends are in these pictures. Face recognition is gee-whiz and has some utility in this context, but if they can’t make it work properly (e.g,. no false positives) why is it being used? Why is it okay that I have to work around the computer’s mistakes?

LinkedIn runs over with suggestions for other people I might to connect to. Yesterday it encouraged me to connect with someone who recently passed away (and whose passing was widely noted). As with the previous example, our immediate reaction is “Well, how should the computer know that?” And that’s my point: we’ve become so used to working within the constraints of technology that we just shrug off this annoying, potentially offensive interactions.

I’m interested both in the limits of the technologies we use and in our enabling of those limits.


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