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Machine Learning Bias in Application

3 Things You Must Start Doing When You Become a Team Leader

Machine learning is powerful because it is taught to respond to data it has never seen before. Through a process of statistical analysis called “training”, these models can pick up on patterns in data sets and apply those motifs to completely new examples.

A famous example of machine learning in action is its application on the EMNIST database. The EMNIST database is a collection of human-drawn digits (0-9) that has been widely used in training image classification programs.

Essentially, a computer can learn how to recognize and classify imperfect, handwritten numbers from this database. After such a model has been effectively trained, the program should be able to classify a fresh example it has never seen before.

This is what makes AI and machine learning so powerful and likely to revolutionize technology as we know it. However, this asset is also potentially dangerous in at-scale applications.

Trained on Facebook posts and comments, Meta’s new AI chatbot “can convincingly mimic how humans speak on the internet,” according to CNN. However, as we all know by now, some people on Facebook can say some questionable things.

Not only did the chatbot recite many conspiracy theories propagated on the platform, but it also attacked the company that created it. Vice reports the bot even parroted “since deleting Facebook my life has been much better.”

In other examples, racial biases in datasets are amplified through the training process and skew the model.

Fundamentally, AI’s greatest strength leads to inherent unpredictability in how it might respond to data. From a marketing standpoint or from an ethical one, it’s necessary to really spend time understanding the potential biases of a dataset before using it to train any model.


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Open post Education in Our Digitized World

Education in Our Digitized World

3 Things You Must Start Doing When You Become a Team Leader

Academia is one of our most important institutions, vital to our ability to understand the world and how we fit into it. On a national level, education bolsters our democracy by allowing us firsthand accounts of the past. This makes it so we can can copy what worked well and avoid what didn’t.

Threats to our democracy

Currently, a major threat to our democracy is the spread of misinformation, escalating at lightning speed through social media. Through the pandemic, we have all experienced just how prevalent misinformation can be, and the danger it poses.

In recent years, misinformation has run rampant on many different platforms, all over the world. A study by MIT found that false information is 70% more likely to be retweeted than true information. This is probably because people are drawn to information that is shocking and sensational, as false information is often presented.

Misinformation can have debilitating effects. For evidence, you need only look to the countless fake, and often dangerous coronavirus cures sprouting up all over social media. Drinking bleach will not ward off covid, but it will likely get you a stay in the hospital.

While this is certainly a very extreme example, even more subtle misinformation can have severe consequences. It can compel people to buy faulty products, lead to increased political polarization, and cause distrust of science. It undermines truth and threatens democracy. So, what can be done to combat misinformation?

It starts with education

One of the most powerful tools we have to combat misinformation is critical thinking. Education plays a crucial role in developing this skill. On a personal level, education is key, not only, to success, but true growth. In an ideal world, this would foster a sense of curiosity and a drive for excellence.

For some students, our current system of education accomplishes this, but our institutions fail many more in the process. Read on to discover ways that schools and institutions are working to improve education and the role that technology plays in this.

Critical thinking is essential

High-quality education doesn’t just rely on reciting facts; it pushes students to analyze, question, contemplate, connect, criticize, and expand. It doesn’t tell students what to think but teaches them how to think. With a strong background in critical thinking and comfort with research, people are much less susceptible to misinformation.

Unfortunately, sometimes memorization producing correct answers are prioritized at the expense of developing more expansive thinking skills. Because digitized education can adapt to meet the needs of individual students, it could be a helpful tool for developing critical thinking skills. There are even virtual educational resources that directly work to teach students how to identify false information.

The role of technology

In Bill Gates’ end-of-year post, he predicts that the future of education will be increasingly digitized. “Unlike offices, schools will go back to only in-person instruction except maybe for some limited remote options for older high school students. What will change, though, is how we use digital tools to enhance the way kids learn.” Additionally, he states that “we’re starting to see that curriculum become more responsive as demand goes up, and it will only become more tailored to the individual needs of students and teachers in the years ahead. The intention is that these new tools will supplement classroom learning rather than replace it.”

While in-person instruction is necessary, digital tools have the potential to better personalize education and push students to think more deeply. Technology also has the potential to greatly increase access to high-quality education.

Addressing inequality in education

In a separate post, Gates cites that algebra is the most failed course in high school. He explains that this is extremely problematic because it's also one of the biggest predictors of future success. “Students who pass Algebra 1 by the end of 9th grade open the door to advanced STEM courses and AP classes, and are more likely to enroll in college, graduate with a bachelor’s degree, and go on to well-paid, in-demand careers,” he relays.

In addition, this is an obstacle that disproportionately affects people from marginalized communities, such as Black, Latino, and ELL students, as well as students experiencing poverty. The Gates Foundation recently funded 11 organizations, each taking a unique approach to combat this issue all around the globe.

Interactive learning

One of these organizations that he highlights is Zearn, an educational nonprofit that is behind the widely used Zearn Math curriculum for elementary schools. Through collaboration with students, they are working to develop a middle school curriculum that will promote inclusivity and set students up for success in Algebra 1. Their goal is to make this preparation more engaging by providing a dynamic and interactive learning experience that will help students make sense of the information.

Overall, by pushing our global educational institutions to be better, we can improve the lives of millions. Misinformation poses a constant threat to our everyday lives, and on a broader level, to our democracy. But we can combat this threat through high-quality education that places emphasis on critical thinking skills.

Educational companies and foundations, especially those focusing on pushing educational technologies forward and on increasing the accessibility of high-quality education, will play a crucial role in the development of younger generations.


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Thoughts on Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality – Why It Matters

Mixed reality is increasingly becoming a part of our lives, and those of us working in software and hardware development should keep a keen eye on these technologies. We are all likely to be affected, and the demands of these technologies will impact the work we do.

The term “Mixed Reality” was coined in 1994 by Paul Milgram and Fumio Kishino to describe the continuum that exists between our perceived reality and a reality that has been generated or modified artificially. That continuum stretches between the real environment, at one extreme end of the spectrum, to an augmented reality, an augmented virtuality, and to a completely virtual environment on the extreme opposite end of the spectrum.1

Some additional definitions may be helpful here:

  • Augmented Reality (AR) is a term used to describe the technology of using digital components to enhance our experience in the real world. Information not ordinarily available to our natural senses is provided by AR tools to improve our interactions with the world around us.
  • The Mixed Reality term Augmented Virtuality is used to describe a system consisting mostly of an artificially generated environment that also has some real elements. This includes using real-world images within a virtual space, for example. The common lexicon used to describe these technologies usually defines Augmented Virtualty (AV) as either AR or Virtual Reality (VR).
  • Virtual Reality is getting a great deal of attention these days, and it refers to a completely digital recreation of a real setting. It is not uncommon for a 360-video experience to be labeled as VR, but that is not always technically correct. As VR technology improves and audiences become more familiar with the technology, they will increasingly expect to be more than a passive observer of a VR experience. They will expect full interactions with the artificial environment.

Virtual Reality’s wide-ranging applications

Not surprisingly, the entertainment industries are pushing the development of Virtual Reality (VR), and this is particularly true of the gaming industry. In a recent game developer’s conference held in San Francisco, attendees were surveyed, and 16% of those polled indicated they were actively involved in virtual reality game development. To put that in perspective, that was more than the game development of the two current Nintendo game systems combined.2  This year’s Sundance film festival held in January featured no less than 30 VR-related experiences.3 Movies increasingly are becoming more interactive and games are becoming increasingly visual. The merging of these industries through VR seems inevitable.

The entertainment and gaming industries seem to be driving VR development at the consumer level, but VR is prevalent in other areas as well. The military has used simulators to train personnel for many decades, and the use of VR has only enhanced training efforts. VR provides a no-risk means of exposing soldiers to dangerous situations to train for proper responses.4  This type of training is also being used by police departments for similar reasons.5  Not just on the streets,  VR is being investigated as a way to give jurors a more detailed view of a crime scene and events that occurred. Researchers in Zurich have found it makes it easier for jurors to determine if someone is guilty or not.6

VR is also being employed in manufacturing. For example, Ford is using VR as a form of prototyping to inspect a vehicle design for flaws and usability.7 Ford is not alone.  According to one international VR company, Peugeot, Renault, BMW, and Jaguar all have VR centers, and Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Airbus, Miele, and BAE also use VR to prototype their designs.8   Toyota has used VR to help educate teens on the dangers of distracted driving and they believe VR will be used extensively in education to make learning more efficient.9 Several companies dedicated to VR education are creating packages of content and instructor materials for K – 12 schools.10

Other examples of VR use include museums using it to give visitors to their website a chance to tour their museum remotely, real estate companies providing potential buyers the ability to explore a new listing, and in medicine, VR is helping to train surgeons in operating rooms. It is also being used to help soldiers and others dealing with PTSD. The list of applications of VR just goes on and on. The same is true for AR.

Augmented Reality may prove to be even more important

As much attention as VR is getting these days, Augmented Reality (AR) is poised to be many times bigger. According to a recent article on, “Analyst Digi-Capital predicts an AR market of $90 billion annually by 2020, compared to $30 billion for VR.” 11 The difference is due to the fact that AR does not replace the user environment, but instead adds information to the user’s normal environment. This technology is poised to become ubiquitous in our daily lives.

A common example of AR use today in our lives is the use of a QR code to obtain information about something encountered in our environment. Snapping a picture with a smart phone of the QR code in an application that can read the code will result in additional information about an object or event presented at the point of interest. This technology is commonplace at retail shelves, but to give an idea of just how far this may go; one company is making use of QR codes for gravestones. They see a future in which people will snap the QR code on a headstone to see details of the deceased.12 It may seem strange today, but in a world where such information augmentation is everywhere, it will feel entirely normal.

Similar to QR code use, AR is also used to assist in visualizing how real elements will look with some sort of addition or modification by taking a picture and adding in artificial elements to see how they look together. Design software makes use of this sort of thing, making it possible, for example, to see how furniture or wall paint colors will look within an existing room.13 Retailers use this technology to see how a product or modification will look on store display shelves with existing products. This same technology has been employed in construction to visualize how a structure will fit and work in an existing environment.14

Some other uses of AR include an application in development that allows encrypted text to be viewed through AR glasses in unencrypted form. Also, real-time translation of foreign languages is increasingly being used in International communications and travel. Automotive windshield dashboard display, military use of heads-up displays, location-based notifications and alerts, parts identification based on a picture of the object, and in medicine, the aggregation of multiple displays into one combined display for a surgeon, are all examples of AR technology being used today.

We are the forefront of new technologies in VR and AR that will increasingly be commonplace in our lives. From entertainment to medicine and industrial use, these advancements will necessitate those of us in the software development lifecycle to stay informed and seek to find ways these technologies can be incorporated into our work.

We’d love to hear what you think of the VR/AR evolving landscape; share your thoughts with us on our Tweeter feed –, @quardev





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