Implications Matter

Implications Matter

Disclaimer: The aim of this blog is to discuss how able-bodied privilege, laws/policies that are designed in favor of those with non-disabilities, functions as a form of oppression. By oppression, I mean systematic exercises of power against an individual or group in unjust ways that results in marginalization, disadvantage, and dis-empowerment. I intend to present opinions that frame disabled people as ‘deviant’ figures, but these do not reflect my views on disability. Rather, I hope to shape my blog in a way that emphasizes the problematic nature of the cultural attitudes that frame how a society can view disability. I am not an expert on this subject, but I have an interest in discussing the interconnection between disability and race. Feel free to point out any concerns about the language I use to discuss this topic, whether this is in the shape of a formal letter or a simple “Go to hell,” which is probably the more fun option.

Homicide: “the deliberate and unlawful killing of one person by another” (OED), more specifically, the term coroners used to describe Tanisha Anderson’s death. On November 12th, 2014 (the same day Tanisha died), in Cleveland Ohio, Tanisha began to act in an agitated manner. According to Tanisha’s sister Jennifer, Tanisha desired to leave her home and made several attempts to do so. Tanisha was an adult and an individual with autonomy, making the decision to leave her house shouldn’t have been a problem, but her family members feared Tanisha was experiencing an ‘episode.’ Apparently, the stigmas attached to people with disabilities, in Tanisha’s case Bipolar disorder, paired with familial love, are not just a fallacy of the prejudiced but also loved ones as well. So, Tanisha’s family called Cleveland’s emergency medical unit and a pair of cops arrived at the home. As Tanisha’s family observed, the cops Scott Aldridge and Brian Meyers began to interact with Tanisha in a hostile manner. Aldridge and Meyers slammed Tanisha to the ground and forced her into a prostrate position, which cut off her air supply and resulted in her death. Although family members made efforts to interfere after witnessing the rough methods the cops used, Tanisha died.

If you hadn’t already guessed, there is definitely something wrong about the way this incident went down. The sole purpose of involving Aldridge and Meyers was to provide the safe transport of Tanisha to the hospital, but their actions heavily undermine any intention of doing so. The officers slammed her into the pavement, which speaks for itself, treating Tanisha as object instead of a person. I don’t know about anyone else, but crushing someone into the ground does sound like an effective ‘situation-diffusing’ tactic. Besides portraying the officer’s incompetency, the officer’s actions can stress how dominant cultural attitudes possibly view disability. These views label disability as a neutral topic, a non-political issue, and as an individual issues that can be managed on a case-by-case basis. A Family Member’s Stance

In an attempt to overturn this blasphemy, I shall examine the factors that could have influenced how her case was handled. Tanisha Anderson, an African American woman, was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder. Now you’re probably thinking, “What the hell does race have to do with her disability?” Here’s my answer: racial injustice is a prevalent problem that is not geographically limited, it occurs everywhere. Often, the black female and male gendered body are subject to prejudice, which instigates a persistent image of the ‘deviant figure.’ Thus, I argue that one main reason why Tanisha’s case was handled in such a problematic way is because of negative structure of cultural attitudes that determine how people view disability and race. For instance, the filter in which discussions about disability often come through range from perspectives meant to inspire, promote pity, or cause feelings of fear within an able-bodied person. In Tanisha Anderson’s case, some individuals may argue that her mental disability can transform Tanisha from a normal person to a threat.

From my perspective, this assumption that difference means danger is ridiculous. It’s unfair to use disability as evidence of deviancy within an individual, because crimes are committed by a range of people. My mother is disabled, but let’s forget the fact that I love her, efforts should be made to send her away right–never know when she might turn into a psychopath. Forgive my rant, I meant to point out that this type of rigid thinking, in terms of how society views disability, is problematic. For instance, the way “we” build schools, businesses, police stations emphasizes how dominant culture understands and values disability. Unfortunately, this world’s design does not have accessibility  as its forefront priority. One way to fix this issue is to recognize the social and cultural ideas that shape how disability is viewed, and change those ideas to recognize  disability as a culture that encompasses shared values and identity. What is Privilege?



Artificial Intelligence vs. Human

Artificial Intelligence vs. Human

The news about Google AlphaGo vs. Lee Sedol surprised many people worldwide. Google AlphaGo is a computer program developed by Google DeepMind lab to play the board game Go. Lee Sedol is a South Korean professional Go player and he is ranked Top 3 in the world. Before the contest, many professionals expressed their point of Google AlphaGo could not beat this professional player. However, a 4: 1 final score was quite dramatic.
AL1Go is one of the oldest and the most complex board game play to
day. It has more than 2*10^170 legal way to put a “stone” (which is the white or black pieces in the above figure). The big bang (or the age of the universe) was 15 billion years old or 5*10^17 seconds! That means, no matter how fast a computer is, this computer cannot predict the result of the game and beat a professional human player for a limit time. However, AlphaGo does. AlphaGo has different strategy decision functions, and those are the computational functions to decide the next step of the game. The core function is the deep learning. Deep learning means AlphaGo can study the game like a normal human being. AlphaGo can obtain the experience from previous games. Hence, it looks like AlphaGo will be able to think and make a decision as a human.AL2


So, what does this news mean?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is “smarter” and it starts to evolve. The threat of AI becomes a stronger voice, and these people who believe the threat is true also think the movies I, Robot, or The Terminator will finally happen.

But, I don’t believe this threat theory.

An article, Where Computers Defeat Humans, and Where They Can’t, New York Time, has addressed the self-learning power of AlphaGo. AlphaGo’s victories illustrate the power of a new approach, which instead of trying to program smart strategies into a computer, it builds systems that can learn winning strategies almost entirely on their own by seeing examples of successes and failures. Such ability may be the reason for people to believe the threat of Artificial Intelligence and worry about if AI will be out of control with a self-conscious mind and has an against ideology – against the human being, the founder and the master of AI. With such high development and assumption, even Steven Hawking expressed his concern about Artificial Intelligence during the interview of BBS on Dec. 2nd, 2014.


However, I do not believe this threat theory. In an article entitled with To Beat Go Champion, Google’s Program Needed a Human Army, Melanie Mitchell, a computer scientist at Portland State University and the Santa Fe Institute indicated the biggest difference between human being and a computer program – the pattern recognition. Computer programs have their limitations: the goal and method. Since programs performance computing with binary, 0 and 1 only, and following the certain rules, they will only do what human wants to. For example, they cannot use the same rules and program to play different board games.

Yes, the true reason of Artificial Intelligence cannot defeat humans is the different ways to realize and solve a problem. The developed AI cannot solve creative problems! But we can. We can solve the problem A by studying and using the experience from problem B even if A and B are 100% different, because humans can always make some connections between two things no matter how tiny this is. But AI doesn’t. Artificial Intelligence cannot solve the problem of Go from the result of chess. Also, the way of the human brain working is far more different from the way of the computers are. In spite of mimicking how the human brain works, AI is still an algorithm designed for machines. Human brains store or pass information through countless neurons with complicated chemical changes, which is of great importance for signals, whereas AI is much simpler than that.

AL3Artificial Intelligence is not to create a new brain. It seems like that machines are “thinking” and then making decisions, but all they do is just following established rules and performing calculations. Artificial Intelligence is still computing, not “thinking”, in high-speed with some rules. Machines with high-level Artificial Intelligence can only proceed under the pre-set rules. No matter how “smart” AI is, it has no ability to create rules of its own. But, the human can create the rules, break the rules, and change the rules.

Regardless, the victory of Google AlphaGo represents a new level of Artificial Intelligence. But, the advantages of it should be more noticed by people, instead of worrying it become a threat to humans in the future. Through the victory of Google AlphaGo, researchers can now confirm that computers possess the ability to make the optimal decision with highly developed algorithms and performing huge computations. In fact, I think the victory of Google AlphaGo relies on decent algorithms and high-quality hardware. People can take advantages of the benefits. The essence of Artificial Intelligence is to study how to make computers perform tasks that used to be done only by people. We control AI. Artificial Intelligence is not a threat! Instead of performing with instinct like humans do, AI is not “smart” enough! So, don’t worry about your coffee maker will try to kill you in the future.

The Bachelor: A Toxic Guilty Pleasure

Competitive reality TV shows like The Bachelor are exciting, drama-filled, blow-ups waiting to happen, which is great for drawing in television ratings within the young adult market, especially amongst women. These types of shows do immensely well with gaining traction on social media, becoming front page magazine stories, and fueling young people’s desire for unadulterated gossip at their disposal. What these shows also do, however, is perpetuate unrealistic relationship, body, and self-esteem standards among their young, impressionable, and oftentimes female viewers.

It’s common knowledge that young women are going to have self-image issues; that’s a given. With this in mind and an understanding that drama-filled reality TV is a draw for the young female audience, The Bachelor reels in viewers by the thousands, corrupting their minds with misconceptions, and holding tightly onto them so that their perception of things such as dating and love are skewed. Our concept of dating has been twisted into some fantastical idea by romantic movies that a man has to make some grand gesture to court us. The same is true with this show. It exaggerates the dating process by having destination dates that occur in exotic, foreign countries like Belize, Aruba, France, and Italy. Though these places make for beautiful on-camera scenes, the idea that any of these date locations are realistic is laughable.

Not only does The Bachelor grossly contort the idea of women’s expectations for what to expect from the dating scene, it also gives an unrealistic standard of physical traits that women are supposed to adhere to.

From the very roots of what makes the show popular, we begin with an idealized standard of a man who portrays the Bachelor on the show: tall, fit, conventionally handsome, and a so-called “hopeless romantic” who’s seeking love among a group of women he’s never met before and has no connections to whatsoever. sean-lowe-600

In addition to the male standard of what a man should look like, all of the women on the show are held to standards as well; they are all conventionally beautiful, thin, and have perfect hair. There isn’t a stringent list of requirements on how a contestant should look, but on the casting page, the show lists eligibility details, including “All applicants who are selected as Semi-Finalists…may be required to undergo physical and psychological examinations and testing…and meet all physical and psychological requirements,” which might as well blatantly state that a contestant on the show needs to be thin, pretty, and seemingly perfect. How surprising.

These perceptions of beauty reinstate the idea that women’s worth is only skin-deep and that the worth of their future potential partner is also only superficial. In conjunction to The Bachelor perpetuating the ideal physical image of a woman and her partner on its viewers, it also subliminally convinces young women that they are not good enough (in many ways) on their own.

For instance, every week viewers see the women talk down to one another, gossip about each other, and act immature (like women can do nothing but bring one another down). This show is geared towards making drama between women, which has become extremely problematic. Throughout the course of the show, the women go through periods of making alliances, picking a bad guy out of the women. The other women are viewed as competition and threats, which makes developing friendships between the women nearly impossible. Then, at the end of the show’s run, there is a 142693_4110segment called “Women Tell All,” where all of the rejected girls band together and spill the beans on the drama between their fellow contestants and tell their own feelings about the Bachelor on live TV. This segment is just another way to paint women as catty, petty, and as if our lives revolve around making other women feel ‘less than’. What kind of message does this send its young female audience? That it’s okay and cool to be childish and put other women down in order to raise themselves up?  This kind of women-on-women drama puts us against one another and has an affect on our collective identity and self-esteem.

Self-worth issues are consistently present in our society; this stems from a multitude of things. On the show, the rampant negativity between the women comes from a place of insecurity within one’s self and the fear of not being good enough. This fear stems from the idea that if the women don’t make it to the end of the show, then they weren’t enough to be the winner or “get the guy,” a concept perpetuated by another unfortunate aspect of the show: the rose ceremony.

The rose ceremony is an archaic method of elimination. Weekly, only so many women are given roses by the Bachelor, which is a classy way to tell the others that something within themselves is lacking. This method of eliminating the “unwanted” contestants can make young female viewers question their own worth. Are they also not good enough? Questions of self-worth arise when a national TV network like ABC continues to revere this show as good entertainment. Even sites like Buzzfeed – albeit satirically – get into the craze of asking the “are you good enough” question in their quiz: Would You Make it to the Final Rose Ceremony?. Being in such a compromising situation where inevitably people are being sent home on the basis that something about them isn’t “enough” maintains the idea that women need to live up to a certain set of standards to fit in or reach a level of acceptance that is widely valued by society (and specifically men).

The toxicity of shows like this go so deep that they can be explored over the depths of years of patriarchal agendas being pushed into the mainstream media – but what’s the point? Shows like this constantly imply that women need to be beautiful and dainty and that their only worth lies in garnering attention from men. And we’re told again and again that women are immature and fight over one another to prove we are the best of the best. See, we already consciously know how damaging it is to see women putting each other down and not knowing their self-worth, but this talk is all for naught as long as shows like this continue to thrive.

We can continue blaming the patriarchal system for the way the world works, but aren’t we as women – and viewers in general – complicit, too? Until The Bachelor goes down the same path as American Idol did and fizzles out after 15 seasons, nothing is going to change.

And hey, what else would we do on Monday nights if there was no Bachelor to mindlessly watch? Not a damn thing.

Rebecca Reynoso

Thought-Provoking and Inventive Criticism

gif for class

Welcome to the UIC English 201 cultural and social critique site, inspired by popular online cultural critique venues, such as Buzzfeed, Salon, Huffington Post, The Rumpus, and others. Here you’ll find cultural reporting and criticism about a variety of topics, including female body image and the media, on-line gaming, police brutality, school funding, and the dangers of Disney. Sorry Mickey Mouse!  Kick back and enjoy…