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(en) France, Union Communiste Libertaire AL #306 - Culture, Read: Collet, "The Forgotten Digital" (fr, it, pt)[machine translation]

Date Wed, 1 Jul 2020 09:50:04 +0300

Did you know? Many women have played a vital role in the history of digital innovations. The very first people to program a computer are ... six women. But the "Eniac girls " as they are called (oh the beautiful nickname that infantilizes and that invisibilizes) have never had the institutional recognition to which they would be entitled. And it's systematic; when advances are due to women, these are not mentioned. If today's computer scientists have heard of Grace Hoper, Ada Lovelace ... for others, this book provides central information to anyone who wants to do away with the myth of an entirely male discipline.
There is also another myth, more pernicious, than attacked Isabelle Collet, that of the self-censorship of women. Common sense tells you, if they are not numerous in IT, it is because they simply do not want to come! Thanks to tasty analyzes, nourished by surveys, anecdotes lived and intellectual self-defense, the author shows on the contrary how difficult it is for a woman to admit her interest in the field, then to register , then stay in these sectors. The course being marked out by numerous pitfalls for women, they are logically less numerous to stay there than their male comrades who do not meet the same obstacles. It is not self-censorship, but social censorship.

Science repainted in pink
So what to do? The book details good practices (including these good old quotas, unsurpassable first step), which allow to achieve more inclusiveness. Even more precious is the analysis of what will not work, even with the best of intentions. Cited as an example - and visible on the net - the clip Science is a girl's thing (which we encourage you to go see if you want to laugh a little) is the archetype of what Isabelle Collet calls science "repainted in pink»: To attract women, we add to the representation of the discipline what we define as feminine, and in doing so, we create another category of science; on the one hand there is "real" science, and on the other, science "for girls". The result is the opposite of the desired effect: we anchor the idea that "normal" science , that which is practiced without stilettos, is a universe in which women have no place.

The last chapter focuses on the most current issues: artificial intelligence. We are fantasizing today about the machine, supposedly neutral, which will advantageously replace the human being and his failing subjectivity ... But the principle of artificial intelligence is that it identifies the mechanisms likely to be automated, to then repeat them systematically; we can therefore immediately abandon the idea of an artificial intelligence capable of correcting the sexist or racist biases of men, the reverse occurs ! So, when Amazon tried to automate its recruitment, by submitting the CVs it received to a program fed by the data of ten years of internal human resources, the program began to exclude almost all women. They are less recruited, less paid, less promoted ; artificial intelligence. logically deduces that these are less promising employees.

This dynamic and surprising book ends on an optimistic note, but also on a warning; If we move (in small steps) in the right direction with regard to the inclusion of women, the next divide will undoubtedly be that of the social milieu.

Mélanie (UCL Grand-Paris sud)

Isabelle Collet, Les oubliées du numérique , Le Passeur, September 2019, 219 pages, 19 euros.

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