the History & Future of Women Changing the World
One visual minute of inspiration: Happy Birthday to Apple! Meet the woman who led a team of women in the first
Human-Computer Interface Group that brought color, motion, and graphics to the web.
Hanging out with the geeky kids in high school
Q: You are the first person we’ve met who grew up wanting to work in Artificial Intelligence. Can you tell us a little about how, when you were young, you got that idea in the first place? And why it took hold of you so firmly?”
A: I was seven when thought Hal―the robot from 2001: A Space Odyssey―was fascinating. I’d watch Star Trek too, and I loved Spock and the idea that the computer on the Enterprise could talk. I enjoyed these and other science fiction shows, which my dad and I often watched together.
Image credit: Kent Reno. Source www.annahalprint.org
Hedy Lamarr: Talented Actress, Brilliant Inventor
BY BLANCA ALONSO
A world famous actress who also was a genius inventor, Hedy Lamarr was born November 9, 1914 in Vienna, Austria-Hungary. Her birth name was Hedwig Eva Maria Kiesler. She was not only one of the most beautiful and talented actresses to appear on television, but she was also a genius. She appeared in many films including the controversial “Ecstasy,” and went on to bring us world changing inventions that helped the World War II effort.
Hedy Lamarr was married and divorced six times. Her life changed when she rebelled against her first husband, Friedrich Manda, whom she married at the age of 18. His extreme jealousy and controlling ways at first prevented her from pursuing her career and dreams. Hedy said in one of her autobiographies that her husband had ties with the Nazis and that at times Mussolini and Hitler had attended lavish parties in her home. With her husband as a barrier to accomplish all her dreams she decided to leave him. One night she insisted on wearing all her jewelry for a dinner then that same night she disappeared. She went into hiding In Paris, and began to live her dreams.
After leaving her jealous and controlling husband, her career started to rise up in the air and then she met Louis B. Mayer, who was searching for talent in Europe. Mayer hired her and convinced her to change her name to Hedy Lamarr, but she became known as the “ecstasy girl” after the controversial film in which she appeared nude. He brought her to Hollywood and started to promote her as the world's most beautiful woman, and with no doubt about it, she was one of the most beautiful to ever appeared in film.
Hedy was not only a very beautiful woman but also a genius. Hedy's first invention was to improve the traffic light, and then she developed a medicine tablet that dissolved in water. The tablet--which she described as tasting like alka-seltzer--was not very successful. But she enjoyed inventing things and she continued to do so.
Her most famous invention was her contribution the the World War II effort. She designed a jam-proof radio system for torpedoes, and a “Secret Communications System” by manipulating radio frequencies to prevent messages from being deciphered by enemies.
Her contributions in the wireless communications field have helped shaped today's cellphone and fax communications, but as with other female inventors she was not recognized as she should have been. It was not until later on that she was recognized with an Electronic Frontier Foundation Pioneer award, the BULBIE (Gnass Spirit of Achievement Award), and introduced to the National Inventor's Hall of Fame.
Hedy became a citizen of the United States in 1966, the same year her “The Ecstasy and Me” autobiography was published. She later came to say that it was not written by her and most of it was fictional. Hedy died in Casselberry, Florida on January 19, 2000. The cause of death was heart failure, chronic valvular heart desease and asteriosclerotic heart disease. Her ashes were taken to Austria and spread in Vienna woods, but her beauty, talent, and inventions will remain among us.
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Dr. Pratt as a baby with her parents
Lorien Pratt, Ph.D.
Anna Halprin: America’s irreplaceable dance treasure”
By: Blanca Alonso
It is inevitable when hearing music to feel energy flowing through our body. Anna Halprin connects us with that energy in a unique way. Anna Halprin (born Anna Schuman) was born on on July 13, 1920, in Winnetka, IL. Anna was exposed to dance at a very young age, and was enrolled in ballet at the age of 4. Her passion and creativity led her to study the techniques of Ruth St Denis and Isadora Duncan, but it was not after the mentorship of Margaret H’Doubler that she focused on personal creativity and body movement. She then left the forms of modern dance to create her own way of recreating the art of everyday life and create revolutionary directions for dance--including as a way of healing.
Being a pioneer in postmodern dance (aka experimental art form), Anna established the San Francisco Dancers’ Workshop in the 1950s. This would give other artists like her the opportunity to express their art and explore the capabilities of their own bodies. Doing so, Anna created a systematic way of moving using kinesthetic awareness, which in her own words describes being aware of one’s kinesthetic sense “is your special sense for being aware of your own movement and empathizing with others.”
In the 1960’s, as she extended her passion of the art to address social issues like racial unrest, she formed the first multiracial dance company and focused on social justice themes. Ceremony of Us, was a collaborative performance by the group she brought together. The group consisted of a group of all-black and a group of all-white dancers becoming one.
In her efforts to bring communities together, her husband Lawrence Halprin and she led a series of workshops called “Experiments in the Environment” which brought together people to explore group creativity in relation to the environment. This moved Anna out of the theater and into the community, helping people address social and emotional problems, and promoting peace among people and peace with the Earth.
She was diagnosed with cancer in the 1970s, and was then that she used her love of dance as part of her healing process. She created and introduced us to innovative dance programs for cancer and AIDS patients. She and her daughter Daria founded the Tamalpa Institute in 1978. This institute uses dance as a healing force for all people.
Anna has created more than 150 dance theater works and written three books along her career. Most of her work based on life experiences like her cancer, her husband’s life-threatening crisis, facing her own aging, and her husband’s death. This passionate love for the art has earn her many recognitions like: Doris Duke Impact Award; California Pacific Medical Center Pioneer Award in Art, Science and Soul of Healing; Named one of America’s 100 Irreplaceable Dance Treasures by Dance Heritage Coalition; Bay Area Dance Coalition Isadora Hall of Fame Award; among many others.
There is no doubt that music makes our heart beat faster and slower, energy flow, and emotions created, but it is through Anna Halprin and her innovations that we now experience dance in a whole new way.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anna_Halprinhttps://annahalprindigitalarchive.omeka.net/Anna Halprin: America’s irreplaceable dance treasures
My parents, Annis and Henry Pratt, were also influential. They told me that I could be an astronaut if I wanted to, and my mom was a leader in the women’s movement. Her idea was that her children would be in the generation of women who had transcended many of the challenges of the past.
The eye of "Hal" from 2001: A Space Odyssey
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By: Eileen Clegg
Dr. Pratt started her high school's Computer Club
As a high schooler in Madison, Wisconsin in the 1970s I had access to a computer. I hung out with the geeky kids and was impressed with one boy who wrote code (that’s him, next to the girl with her arm outstretched. I’m in front of him.
Learning about the lives of women who changed our world has opened our eyes to many surprises. We could write a book on every one! And Joy is the first in line for that. Stay tuned. For now, we decided to create a little video with the essence of Joy's story out into the world -- multi-media of course. Stay tuned for more stories from Joy in the future. A quick introduction: Joy has navigated the complex world of Silicon Valley for quite some time, has more than 23 patents and has led the teams behind many technology innovations we enjoy everyday -- most notably Quicktime, the Apple technology that launched multi-media. We created the video below to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Apple. EnJOY!
Q: In addition to pioneering Decision Intelligence, you are on our Women Inventors and Innovators mural for your discovery of inductive transfer. This innovation of yours in the mid-1980s has informed the work of AI researchers internationally. Can you explain the concept for our non-technical audience?
A: Sure. Let’s begin with machine learning. Instead of writing a computer program, you show the computer examples: “when you see this, do this”. Such as: “here’s a picture with square around the faces” …then you show it a picture and it says, “I think the square should go here.” You provide the computer a million “labeled training examples”, and it learns from them. Your examples say: “here’s the input, here’s what the output will look like. And the machine determines the pattern in the data.
Now, for transfer learning, you start with a machine that’s already learned. For example, you might have a system that has been trained to understand Eileen and Lorien’s voice. The idea behind transfer is that you can take that system as a starting point and use it to learn, say, British-accented speech. By bootstrapping the learning process in this way, you need fewer examples to get good accuracy in the British-accented system than if you had started from scratch.
Another example: your computer has learned medical diagnoses on Americans, and you can use that to jump-start medical diagnosis in India. If we look at the best-performing neural networks (which is the most widely used algorithm for machine learning) most of them use transfer. And the citations to my work are accelerating, even today a couple of decades later.
Q: Today you are a leader in creating AI technologies using your Decision Intelligence methodologies to solve a variety of problems for people. What is your most exciting current project?
A: Right now I’m very excited about www.winworks.ai, which is a democracy 3.0 and next-generation social society platform. Think about what social media does. It spreads ideas through technology. It is, in a way, ultimately, less social, as we are distracted by our phones in many circumstances instead of being present with people. As privacy concerns grow, and we experience the unintended consequences of social media, a new generation of systems is emerging that overcome these issues.
What’s next after social media is action, and getting people outside their phones and into the present moment with others. It’s about the computer helping people know: what action could I take right now that would have the biggest impact in the world? What can I do right now to help my candidate get elected? What should I do to help climate change? It’s about connecting the action you take with the impact you have, and doing your best to talk to people about what they care about the most.
So if I’m passionate about the democrats taking back Congress, what’s the most important thing I can do? Go on a Women’s March? Volunteer to canvass? How can I better understand the chain of event that goes from my little actions to bigger outcome? Work on a phone bank? Call my member of Congress? How much does my work impact a vote? And how do those votes impact the candidate’s likelihood of election? And if my candidate is elected, then what’s the chance of them having a positive impact on climate?
Of course we can’t perfectly predict these things, but there’s a huge opportunity for doing better than we do now. Not understanding how these chains of events work is the biggest problem for democracy right now. Lots of people are checking out, with a reduced sense of agency, in a complex world.
You and me, Eileen, are doing this now. What if we knew – for every new person like me that you profile, you will inspire 100 women, each of whom will talk to three of their friends, and for every person who is inspired in this way, we’ll have a cascade of further positive benefits. Which thing I could do today is the best? Winworks.ai is exciting because I think this is a future of democracy, helping candidates and representatives have honest and effective conversations with their constituents, using technology and surrogates who are trained to listen, not just pitch.
And the winworks.ai code is a model for actions everywhere. It’s part of a bigger movement around Decision Intelligence (DI), which links machine learning into forward models of the impacts of actions on the world.
Q: Can you tell us about a couple of past projects you felt were important contributions to society?
A: I did a small project to help The Carter Center in Liberia, a sub-Saharan African country. The carter Center invited us to help understand the vicious cycle of violence. Here is the chain of events: In some parts of the world, people do not trust that the legal system will protect them. So they are more likely to take the law into their own hands in anticipation of a dispute. This raises the level of conflict in a geographical region. This means that businesses can’t take hold and the economy suffers, so there is no money for police and the legal system. This is a vicious cycle. The question is, given limited resources, how can you turn around that vicious cycle. Where is your money best spent?
The Carter Center learned that in many circumstances the answer was to training community members in basic mediation skills and how to navigate the legal system. We built a model that shows how this cycle of violence can be turned around using the Carter Center’s Community Justice Advisor’s program.
Q: In addition to being a developer of emerging technologies, you also are a sought-after speaker on AI because of your ability to connect with general audiences—often people who need to understand AI because they are in a position to buy or use technology for their organizations. What do you think is the biggest point of misunderstanding about AI?
People tend to think that AI already does multi-link reasoning, whereas 99 percent of it just does one link at a time. AI can look at a picture and find the faces. It can look at text and determine the subject. It can look at your facebook history and figure out which is the best ad to show you. All of these are just one link . This is not a decision, and does not help us fully with determining the best action to take in many circumstances. So a lot of my talks I talk about Decision Intelligence, which is a multi-link technology that solves this problem.
Q: What do you wish the general public knew about Artificial Intelligence? And do people have a responsibility to learn more about it?
A: I wish they knew there is an awful lot of click-bait out there – the robot apocalypse is a pretty popular meme. I advise people to read everything with skepticism. People publish articles for many reasons: the article may be true, or it may generates eyeballs. There’s a little bit of hype. Fear sells.
As you start to get into the detailed AI literature, your goal may be about how to use AI, but most of the material you can find is about how it works. It’s like you want to learn about driving, and everything out there is about inside of the engine. I don’t know any good resources that get this right, which is why I’m writing my next book, called Link. There are few that write from point of view of practitioner. Most resources expect a level of sophistication that’s not widely held: expertise in math, computer science, and more.
Very little of what you find on the web is about sitting behind the dashboard and steering. AI can be that simple. For instance, I’ve built a one-click machine learning system that embodies a lot of my expertise that’s sold at Vizadata.com. I took my machine learning experience building systems over many years and coded it in a one-click system that makes AI easy.
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Long story short: I taught myself coding to impress him. And the following year I started the high school computer club (that’s me at the bottom of the shot). After high school I chose to attend Dartmouth College, where BASIC was invented.
Meet Joy Mountford, Creator Of Quicktime
The pioneer of investigative reporting, Ida Tarbell developed an approach to journalism that helped break up monopolies in the early 1900’s, and inspired a style of writing that 100 years later is still changing society (think Watergate and Spotlight). Her creation of “muckraking” transformed journalism and earned her a place of honor in the history of the United States. While researching her journalism contributions for the Women Inventors and Innovators Mural, little did we know that Ms. Tarbell also would give us a wild ride through the complicated jungle of opinions about the gender gap in her day.
Ida Tarbell was best known for her 1904 book, History of Standard Oil Company, the compilation of a meticulously researched series she wrote for McClure's Magazine about the business practices and personal behaviors of the Rockefeller oil magnates. She also wrote biographies of President Lincoln and other nonfiction books, including, later in her life, two lesser known works on the topic of women, emphasizing their importance to their families.
She became a role model of leadership for women in her day, but many in the Suffragette movement were disenchanted by her later books that raised questions about women who sought mainstream work. Her book “The Business of Being a Woman” made some controversial statements about women, including questioning women’s emotional capability to make clear decisions in the business and political arenas. At a time when women were just beginning to join the mainstream workforce in earnest, Tarbell waded into some murky, ambiguous topics with opinions not necessarily helpful to other women seeking to make an impact outside the home.
“The Business of Being a Woman,” gives us a glimpse of the dilemmas, biases, and cultural attitudes women faced in 1912. She wrote:
Many women in her day recoiled from her words, as many women today might as well. Yet in muckraking tradition, Ms. Tarbell boldly spoke her opinion and in so doing gave us a glimpse into conditions and attitudes a century ago, some of which are carried forward in subtle ways that continue to create dilemmas for women today. Here is an excellent think piece from a history professor at Ida Tarbell's alma mater, Allegheny College, examining the complex disconnect between Ms. Tarbell's role as an innovator and her view of the potential for women in general.
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WOMEN INVENTORS AND INNOVATORS
We would like you to prepare for a surprise insight from this story about two young women mathematicians in the early 1800s.
One was the daughter of a famous poet who believed she possessed supernatural powers of imagination. She was considered moody and her own mother criticized her “peculiarities, caprices, and self-seeking.” The young mathematician felt that, as a woman, she could not publish papers with her own ideas. So she offered her services to a male colleague and published her ideas as notes on his manuscript. After that, she struggled fruitlessly to find her own projects, became ill and addicted to the painkillers at the time, and died at the age of 36.
The other was a countess who liked to talk about her mathematical pursuits as “poetical science.” She had three children, and the ability to conceptualize new ideas at the intersection of multiple disciplines. She had the idea that a machine could be programmed to do unlimited tasks, tabulating any kind of function imaginable, not just numerical. She saw that any piece of data—music, art, conceptual—could be expressed in digital form. She worked on a demo in partnership with Charles Babbage, developer of the so-called Analytical Engine. She is celebrated in history as the creator of the first proto-computer.
Here’s the surprise: They are both the same woman, Countess Ada Lovelace, daughter of Lord Byron. Her story is written beautifully by Walter Isaacson, in his book The Innovators: How a Group of Inventors, Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution (2014, Simon & Schuster). Today Ada Lovelace is being celebrated with an exhibit at the Computer History Museum in San Jose.
We share the story of Ada Lovelace as our first in the series of WomenStories because hers poignantly reveals the many layers typical in stories of women innovators and leaders. They had brilliant insights, but often lacked a platform for expressing them. They may have had confidence in their perceptions, but often faced criticism for personal qualities that were not considered becoming to women in their day. As future thinkers, they had to navigate not only social norms for women, but also the current paradigm to get people to think differently. Somehow, Countess Lovelace and others transcended the conditions of their times, succeeded in getting their vision into the world, and, as a result created a better future for others.
When telling the “two tales” of Ada Lovelace during conferences, the audience response tells a story in itself. Faces blanch almost painfully upon hearing the frustrating and sad experiences in Ada’s personal life, and how she was labelled as (in today’s parlance) "full of herself". Faces light up upon hearing about a women of her times who not only succeeded in getting her vision out there but is still being celebrated today. Failure. Success. Frustration. Sadness. Joy. During informal conversations, we hear that many women do not want to pay the price of being judged or labeled and having to fight to get their ideas out into the world—ideas that are usually designed to help others. We also hear from women who have taken personal risks—often leading to success—that they have been inspired to fulfill an aspiration larger than themselves.
How can we resolve the two views of Countess Lovelace? We might think of her not as her mother characterized her (“self-seeking”) but rather as someone who saw herself in service to her own talents and to the world. She had a conviction about a machine that could augment human intelligence, and expressed the strong belief that no machine could ever replicate human intelligence (a controversial belief in Silicon Valley today). She understood and enjoyed mathematics, but she had a passion to employ mathematics in a practical way to support the betterment of humankind. The goal was more important to her than her reputation. How many successful women do we know who are labelled as full of themselves because they are relentlessly pursuing a personal passion that may not be understood by others?
Countess Lovelace’s story raises many questions for us as we contemplate the complex, multilayered, flummoxing question of why—200 years since the birth of Ada Lovelace—women are still struggling to have influence equal to men. What kind of support would have made Ada’s life easier? What in her nature enabled her to persevere and continue her dogged professional pursuit of Babbage until she got her ideas out through him? What can we learn from Babbage about collaboration and being willing to share credit? What was it about the early 1850’s that made women feel they couldn’t publish new ideas? Are there similar conditions today that are subtle but equally daunting for women who are going against the prevailing beliefs and norms of our time? Given the threats to humankind and our planet, how can we uncover invisible barriers to women’s influence and enable the voices, ideas, and approaches of women to help us shift some of the dangerous aspects of our current social, political, and economic paradigms? What support can we give to young women inventors, innovators and leaders today, so they don’t waste the gifts we need so badly?
Brave, witty, and strategic, the former slave Harriet Tubman made history as a freedom fighter for African Americans and a role model for women military leaders in the mid-19th century. Today she is making history again as the first woman to appear on U.S. paper currency since Martha Washington’s face appeared briefly on a $1 silver certificate 150 years ago.
What was she like as person? How was she viewed by people in her own time? Anecdotes from her life tell the the story of a woman with great perseverance and resilience. We are likely to learn more about her in an upcoming docu-drama in which, according to BET Magazine, Viola Davis will play Harriet Tubman. Meanwhile, here are a tidbits from a most extraordinary life.
Tubman helped between 70 and 300 slaves (depending on the source) to escape along a route with sympathetic safe houses known as the Underground Railroad that stretched from the American South into communities in Canada where former slaves could live freely. Slave owners offered rewards of up to $40,000 (around a million dollars today) for her capture. Many of the escapes were narrow, including times when the slaves had to hide in holes in the ground covered with dirt while the pursuers went by them.
The $20 bill is a perfect tribute to her perseverance because that is the precise amount of money she demanded once from an abolitionist to help her parents escape . When he didn’t have the money for her, she staged a “sit-in,” parking herself in his office and even sleeping there until the money came through.
Throughout her difficult life—which included a skull fracture at the hands of a slave owner at the age of 12—Harriet Tubman maintained her humor, bravery and spirit. She once said, “I never ran a train off the track.” She is thought to be one of the first military leaders for her work with the militia during the Civil War, when she was a scout, nurse and spy.
Harriet Tubman was revered by the luminaries of her time, including Ralph Waldo Emerson and Queen Victoria, who sent her a silk lace shawl that is not in the Smithsonian Museum.
Because her birth date was unknown, her age at the time of death in March of 1913 also is unknown. She was thought to be in her 90’s, perhaps almost 100. Her last words were from the book of Matthew, “I go to prepare a place for you."