Welcome to Still Computing #6!
When we assembled this issue a few weeks ago, it had a different letter from the editors. This week, we’re grieving the loss of George Floyd, Tony McDade, Breonna Taylor, and all the Black people murdered by police as people across the United States mobilize to resist racist state violence. This violence runs deep in American society — in our laws, schools, hospitals, and beyond — and has for centuries. We are heartened by the efforts of everyone who is doing the difficult, long term work to make this country a fairer, better place.
We see hope in our community, too. Many Recursers have long worked against police violence and the carceral state. They have exposed racial bias in artificial intelligence, written software to help organizers communicate securely, and are currently organizing trainings and Twitter accounts for people to keep up with police radio scanners. We believe that programmers have a responsibility to build tools that — at minimum — do not reproduce bias or cause harm. We all need to think critically, together, about how our work as technologists impacts the world.
We discussed delaying this newsletter. As you can see, we decided to send it. That’s because we think Sarah, Christine, and Julia all have important things to say about dealing with uncertainty, about recognizing what the bugs that exist in systems have to teach you, and about finding an entry point into learning something new, even when it’s difficult. Those pieces are relevant now, in this time of incredible uncertainty, when there is a lot of difficult work to do.
We hope that you all are safe and well, and we hope that you enjoy reading this issue, whether it’s a welcome break from your work advocating for better systems for all of us, or whether you wait to read this until you have the energy to do so.
—Rachel, Mai, Nick, and James
P.S. If you want to follow programmers, researchers, and data scientists working to expose and combat racism in computing, we’ve learned a lot (and continue to learn a lot!) from: @timnitGebru, @Combsthepoet, @jovialjoy, @red_adebe, @black_in_ai, and @osuzuwa.