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International Women’s Day – Recognizing the women who helped make what we do possible

CodeBaby wants to join in recognizing and celebrating some of the countless women upon whose shoulders we stand. Without the work of some of these pioneers and others like them, it wouldn’t be possible to do what we do today. We’d also like to take a moment to recognize the women and organizations today that influence our mission to develop conversations and interfaces that are accessible, representative, and inclusive for everyone.

Animation

Lotte Reiniger was a pioneering animator who, in the early 20th century, developed an animation technique that expressed emotions and actions in a way not possible with silent films of her era. Other animators tended to lean primarily on facial expressions to convey emotions or actions. But Reiniger’s characters, which were cutout animations in the style of silhouette puppetry, required her to rely on gestures and action to convey that emotion.

We take a page from Reiniger’s book today in the philosophy behind our characters. We know from Reiniger’s work, as well as research, that gestures really do convey emotions and can help users create connections with characters.

Natural Language Processing and Conversational AI

Margaret Masterman in 1953 created the Cambridge Language Research Unit. Masterman worked for decades as a linguist and philosopher, emphasizing (and arguing for) the importance of semantics in language processing and establishing a vision for language processing that far outstripped the capabilities of computers available to her. She continually fought for funding for the CLRU at a time when computers relied on punchcards and were extremely expensive relative to the amount of processing power they had. While the costs proved prohibitive, she and the Unit’s works were later recognized by members of the AI community for their attempts while facing long odds and the immense contributions they made to the field in its earliest years. Her and the Unit’s focus on the semantics of language was far ahead of its time. While others were arguing for syntax as the basis of language processing, semantics are now considered a fundamental part of machine understanding of language.

Without the pioneers in natural language processing and conversational AI, we wouldn’t have the “brains” that drive our characters and their conversations real-time, providing users with specific responses to their questions and issues while giving us insights into what those users really need.

The Leaders Influencing Us Now

Our mission includes fostering in our characters and interaction accessibility, representation, and inclusivity. We are continually learning as an organization how to succeed and excel in these areas, and we want to recognize the organizations and their leaders who help us in that mission through their information and publications on a regular basis.

Women in Voice

The Mission of Women in Voice is “to celebrate, amplify, build community, and professional development opportunities for women and gender diverse people in the voice technology field.” At CodeBaby, we believe that conversations FOR a diverse set of users need to be informed BY a diverse set of conversation creators. From publications to events, Women in Voice is an important organization in the tech landscape that we look to in our work.

Black Women in AI

Generally, the field of Artificial Intelligence has a fundamental and destructive problem – data sets used for AI training and assumptions made in building programs – can amplify and reinforce biases and discrimination still prevalent in modern society. If the scientists and technicians working in AI continue to be predominantly white and male, even awareness of these biases can a challenge far less the expectation that they’ll be overcome.

That’s why Black Women in AI, and other organizations like them, are so vitally important in empowering and recognizing Black women in the field. The group is “telling the Story of Black Women working, learning, and advocating in the Artificial Intelligence sector.” In doing so, they provide job boards, local organizations, events, and other resources to open the AI field to the thousands of talented Black women who otherwise might not have a pathway into the field to make the AI of the future much more inclusive and responsible than it is today.

The Conscious Style Guide

Developing conversations that reach a broadly diverse audience is a challenge not just in conveying the necessary information to a wide swatch of society – but also of doing so in a way that is inclusive of ALL members of that society.

The Conscious Style Guide, founded by Karen Yin (https://karenyin.com/), has its mission “to help writers and editors think critically about using language—including words, portrayals, framing, and representation—to empower instead of limit.” The guide provides links to numerous resources covering terminology for various communities and is an incredibly useful tool for developing and reviewing the conversations we at CodeBaby build. The guide also features articles that debate the finer point of terminology so our writers can understand the nuances of the decisions we make.

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