Magic 8-ball toy showing the answer “Don’t count on it.”
Magic 8-ball toy showing the answer “Don’t count on it.”

Amazon had what they thought was a great idea. Create a bot to help figure out whom to hire. There was only one problem. It kept recommending men. In fact, if it saw the name of a women’s college on an application, it demoted it.

How did an AI, this bastion of impartiality, become so sexist?

Because it was told to.

When Amazon investigated, one of the first questions they asked, quite logically, was how was the AI trained. See, AI doesn’t just know, out of the box, how to make recommendations. It is not, in fact, intelligent. You have…

There’s a scene in Blazing Saddles where two black men are sent out in a handcar to discover if there is quicksand on a railroad track up ahead. There is, and as they are sinking in it, their white bosses show up and throw them a rope. But the rope is not for them. It is for the handcart. Their bosses pull it out and are relieved saying, “Dang, that was lucky. Doggone near lost a $400 handcart”. They leave the black men to sink.

I think about this scene a lot when I see police deployed to protect property…

It was a helluva good decade for television. To be clear, there are individual seasons that were downright amazing (Jessica Jones Season One, for one) but if the whole show didn’t hold together as well as any single season (I’m looking at you, Sherlock) it didn’t make the cut.

10. John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous at Radio City

One of the funniest hours of television I’ve ever seen. And endlessly rewatchable. Which is wierd, cos I already know all the jokes. …

This was the decade that filmmakers took genre out for a spin to see what it could really do.

10. The LEGO Movie

Here was a movie that should not have worked. The marketing was right there in the title. And yet, the actual things they wanted about the brand to come through—creativity, ingenuity, playfulness—came through in a way that felt authentic and joyful and organic to the story. …

It was a good year. Like, a really good year. Like, I-had-to-leave-some-great-stuff-off-of-this-list year. As usual, “specials” count as TV for the purposes of this list (and oh, what a special we have for you this year!).

10. Legion

Season Two ended in a place that could have gone in a lot of directions, only a few that would really deliver on the potential social relevance of the series. This season was one of those directions. …

Some surprises for me this year.

10. Booksmart

Puts the lie to the notion that political correctness is ruining comedy. This movie is woke as hell and funny as hell. All at the same time. Also, outstanding direction by Olivia Wilde.

9. Marriage Story

(or Why This Shouldn’t Be Such a Chore, People)

I first heard the term “intersectionality” a few years ago and had no idea what it meant. When friends tried to describe it to me, I had a hard time. Eventually, though, I began to understand it as a different way of looking at identity.

We tend to be very binary when we look at identity. Things are one thing or the opposite. We don’t have much room for “stuff can be two things”.

This makes sense. Or, at least, it’s easier for our minds to deal with things that…

TV shows here loosely defined as stuff that appeared on television, so including stand-up specials and mini-series.

10. A Very English Scandal

You had me at “written by Russel T. Davies”, but then you went and threw in Stephen Frears writing, and Ben Whishaw and Hugh Grant’s incredible performances, which is just unfair.

9. John Mulaney: Kid Gorgeous at Radio City

It was a great year for cinema of color…

10. A Star Is Born

I’m not typically a melodrama enthusiast, but Bradley Cooper’s sure-footed direction gives this interpretation a naturalistic look and feel that lends authenticity magnified by incredible performances from himself, Lady Gaga, and Sam Elliott. And the music doesn’t exactly suck, either.

9. Avengers: Infinity War

It was a good year for genre…

10. The Big Sick

It is very rare that you find a “dramedy” that is able to deliver on both the drama and the comedy, but The Big Sick does. In fact, I would go so far as to cal it a straight-up comedy (there are a LOT of jokes) that happens to have exceptionally strong dramatic heft. A breakthrough for Kumail Nanjiani and Emily Gordon who tell a very personal tale in a very relatable way.

9. Molly’s Game

David Dylan Thomas

Big fan of treating people like people. Author, Design for Cognitive Bias. Content Strategy Advocate, @thinkcompany. Speaker, Lots of Places.

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