Tech History Is More Than Just ‘White, Male Wizards’

Those of us who have studied the history of technology have likely read a lot about “white, male wizards who magically manufactured digital tools that determine our future,” says NYU Professor Charlton D. McIlwain.

“I [wanted] to tell the powerful story of the black women and men who took their own technological futures in their own hands,” he says. “How black folks from the seventies and beyond pulled themselves up by their technological bootstraps and began to use computers and the Internet to determine our own fates.”

Read the rest of the interview in PCMagazine

The Black Engineers Who Opened Up The Computer Revolution

When the World Wide Web was first being developed, African American software engineers, journalists and entrepreneurs were building search engines, directories, and forums to connect and bring on black web users and communities. In his book Black Software: The Internet and Racial Justice, from the AfroNet to Black Lives Matter, Charlton McIlwain tells the stories of these individuals.  Read more and listen to the accompanying broadcast at Science Friday.







The Police Beat Algorithm & Modern Predictive Policing

Culturally, code exists in a nether zone. We can feel its gnostic effects on our everyday reality, but we rarely see it, and it’s quite inscrutable to non-initiates. (The folks in Silicon Valley like it that way; it helps them self-mythologize as wizards.) We construct top-10 lists for movies, games, TV—pieces of work that shape our souls. But we don’t sit around compiling lists of the world’s most consequential bits of code, even though they arguably inform the zeitgeist just as much.

So Slate decided to do precisely that. To shed light on the software that has tilted the world on its axis, the editors polled computer scientists, software developers, historians, policymakers, and journalists. They were asked to pick: Which pieces of code had a huge influence? Which ones warped our lives? About 75 responded with all sorts of ideas, and Slate has selected 36.

Read My Contribution To This List: The Police Beat Algorithm


Love them or fear them, hackers are the cool kids of the Internet. They’re the ones who know what’s really going on around here, and that makes for a great story. Fictional or factual, tales of digital espionage rarely bore. Check out these books about hackers to get pumped for an all-night coding session, inspire yourself to don the white hat, or just to vicariously enjoy the thrilling tale of a digital daredevil.

I do need to address, as always, that we need more diversity in this little corner of publishing. Hell, we need more diversity in computers period. This list is short on women and short on ethnic diversity, which drives me nuts because coding is awesome and everyone deserves to enjoy it. To make that happen, I strongly encourage you to go check out Girls Who CodeColor<Coded>, and People Of Color In Tech. Code is one of those skills you can 100% learn outside of the educational establishment, so also see my list of coding books for kids. (And adults. Not gonna lie: I own a bunch of those myself and I’m well over 30.)

Let’s go hack it up.

Read the rest of the article at BOOK RIOT

From Cringeworthy to Scary: A History of Anti-Drug PSAs

For decades, we’ve been trying to convince teens that drugs are dangerous, definitely not fun and totally deadly.

Beginning in the 1980s, adults — namely a combination government, non-profits and ad companies — weaponized something they knew teens already loved: TV. The simple idea was to use TV advertising to cement messages in teens’ minds that would discourage drug use, encourage them to stay substance-free and draw a line in the sand between users and non-users.

Although the U.S. government has spent more than a billion dollars on funding anti-drug public service announcements since the 1980s, there’s little evidence to show that anti-drug PSAs pay off. But that’s not stopping governments and non-profits from again reaching to the anti-drug PSA handbook, even if the reasons we remember anti-drug PSAs are the exact reasons their makers didn’t intend.

Read More at NPR’s Marketplace 

Reparations for descendants of slaves emerges as key issue in 2020 Democratic field

WASHINGTON – The question of whether to pay restitution to descendants of slaves is emerging as an issue in presidential politics, enabling 2020 Democratic hopefuls to woo African-American voters while opening the party to criticism for moving too far left.

The reparations issue has largely been avoided in mainstream politics due to the controversy it generates as well as to the incalculable amount of tax dollars that would be involved.

Barack Obama said there’s no practical way to administer reparations or means to build political support. Hillary Clinton opposed it, as have other Democratic nominees in recent times.


A movement to boycott the National Football League (NFL) over a new policy that imposes fines on players who protest during the national anthem is advancing on social media, boosted by celebrities and public figures who slammed the revised conduct policy.

The policy, implemented in an attempt to quash growing furor over players kneeling during “The Star-Spangled Banner,” was unveiled on May 23 after a meeting of 32 team owners. It states that players will no longer be required to be present on the field for the anthem, but the league reserves the right to fine teams made up of players who choose to openly protest.

“Clearly our objective as a league and to all 32 clubs—which was unanimous—is we want people to be respectful at the national anthem,” said NFL commissioner Roger Goodell at a press conference announcing the new code. “We want people to stand. That is all personnel. And make sure that they treat this moment in a respectful fashion. That is something that we think we owe.”

Read More at Newsweek


Some conservatives are threatening to boycott Netflix after the streaming giant announced Monday it signed former President Barack Obama and former First Lady Michelle Obama to a multi-year development deal.

The Obamas are slated to produce a hodgepodge of content for Netflix, from scripted to unscripted series to features, according to a news release from the company. The announcement came less than two months after the streaming network named former Obama-era national security adviser and ambassador Susan Rice to its board of directors.

Irked by the news, commenters began flooding Twitter with the resurrected #BoycottNetflixhashtag.

Some users shared photoshopped versions of the company’s red, black and white logo that read, “Cancel Netflix” and “No Thanks.” People who claimed to hold stock in the company said that they would be selling off their shares. Others took a more spiritual approach.

Read More at Newsweek

American politics and the changing media landscape

 – Almost two years ago, Donald Trump descended the Trump Tower escalator to announce his run for president. And we haven’t stopped talking about him since.

“Our lizard brain stems are responsive to stimuli like danger and sex and novelty and story and he provides that constantly,” said Marty Kaplan, the director of the Norman Lear Center at the University of Southern California.

From Syria strikes to Stormy Daniels, the Mother of All Bombs to Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, who is getting fired to who is getting his office raided by the FBI, the sagas and scandals coming out of President Trump’s White House have fueled an unrelenting 24/7 flow of breaking news.

Read More at Fox 5 New York

Was Trump’s alleged slur actually racist?

Yes, it was racist

Mr McIlwain: Yesterday, Donald Trump said African and Haitian immigrants hail from “shithole countries”. A little black girl and child of Haitian immigrants I know overheard. Unprompted, and defiant she responded to her mother: “Donald Trump is a shithole!” The word itself was foreign to her, but she intuitively understood the words were derogatory, demeaning – racist. In Trump’s words she recognised a constellation of associations and inferences that Trump drew on to make this so.

Read More at The BBC