This is issue #3 of intelligence, applied.
A quick primer on this newsletter: I’m interested in the applications of data and machine learning to further human potential, agnostic of realm or industry. Through this newsletter I’m hoping to highlight data projects that I find interesting, or podcasts, articles and playlists that inspire me.
Twitter tells me that today is #ObamaAppreciationDay. This is obviously a joke, and intended to take away attention from the birthday celebrations of a less illustrious president..
Of everything that I can recall about the Obama presidency, this tweet stands out:
"No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion..." pic.twitter.com/InZ58zkoAm— Barack Obama (@BarackObama) August 13, 2017
Obama was quoting Nelson Mandela’s 1994 autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, in response to the white supremacist march in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017. Two subsequent tweets then finish the quote, “people must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love. For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite”.
I have a 10 month old daughter, and this tweet was a stark reminder of my responsibility as a father and guardian. It is hard to imagine how a child as innocent as mine can grow up to feel hatred towards other races or creeds.
I decided to dig further into the research, and see what experts have discovered in regards to children and learned behaviour towards race; It turns out that while Mandela’s insight was compelling, scientific research seems to suggest otherwise. According to a growing body of infant researchers, racism is often a default setting for babies. Tolerance, not racism, is what needs to be taught to young minds. Even as early as 6 month of age, the average infant starts to automatically distrust anything that looks or sounds different that their own parents. Infants starts to show preference for people with the same color of skin as their parents. A recent University of Toronto study exposed infants to images of ethnically diverse faces, and discovered that the babies spent most of their time looking at the faces that most resembled their parents.
“Caucasian infants look longer at Caucasian faces than at other-race ones,” “when the same Caucasian and Asian faces are shown to Asian three-month-olds … they look more at the Asian faces.”
The same research team went on to conclude:
Raising a child free of racism is generally a simple matter of getting the children accustomed to other races.
My daughter is of mixed heritage, part Canadian, part Bangladeshi. Perhaps she’s at an advantage compared to other children born in uniracial families, as she has already been exposed to multiple races since birth. However, I know that my role as a parent can’t end there. I recognize that I have to make a concerted effort to continue to show kindness to all races and as my daughter grows, continue to act against racism, intolerance and other forms of hatred that still plague our societies today.
Data Product of the Week #
While we’re on the topic of babies, I have to introduce this data product that all new parents need to sign up for: Babbly. Babbly tracks your Childs language and social skills via a mobile app, and provides recommendations to parents on how to help their child develop. This is an amazing idea, and a a great use of data and technology to help child development.
The product is still in beta, but launching soon.
In last week’s newsletter I had mistaken said:
The struggle for racial equality has plagued the US since for more than four centuries, and one can only hope that the events of last week are the tipping point for change.
While racism likely existed four centuries ago, the root of the problems that concern the recent riots are likely due to events that happened four hundred ago, beginning with the start of colonization in the 17th century.
Till next week,
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