Finished reading: 12 Bytes: How We Got Here. Where We Might Go Next by Jeanette Winterson

My library had several copies of this on the shelf, so I assumed it was popular or new. The latter is certainly true (2021). This is a collection of short essays detailing the journey from the first analytical machine towards AGI (Artificial General Intelligence; c.f. narrow AI such as a digital assistant), specifically noting the significant contributions of women (against the prejudices and biases which are only now slowly being dismantled).

The stories shouldn’t be new to anyone, but more light on them is a good thing. The author provides a great level of detail about the contributions and their historical contexts, but borders on misandry with their side remarks. “Turn around is fair play” one could argue, but I don’t think it’s helpful here. The (extremely talented) women who programmed the ENIAC (the domain experts on the mathematical equations they were programming the machine to solve) absolutely deserved the credit for their achievements that was withheld from them, but emphasising “the men who built it couldn’t program it” as if to suggest they just stuck some electronics together and couldn’t comprehend what they’d built without the women seems disingenuous. Arguing that the “I’m a Mac / I’m a PC” ads specifically only had men in order to reinforce the stereotype that women don’t use computers seems like a stretch.

I enjoyed reading the historical content of this book. The commentary not so much. Others may enjoy it more than I did.