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paul.j.fenwick

Welcome to my home on the internet! Everything here is free under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license unless marked otherwise.

This site contains various pieces of writing across my various interests, and spanning several years. You can fork this site on github if you wish.

On Gittip and Diversity

For those who aren’t aware, Gittip is a platform for sustainable giving. It provides a way to make contributions to people who you think are making the world a better place, and in such a way that those contributions are mostly predictable and dependable. It’s an idea that I’m really excited about, and to see it working in practice has been wonderful.

Gittip has found itself to be a popular funding platform for those from marginalised groups, and those working towards social justice and diversity. It’s hands-down my favourite thing about the platform. Being a diversity advocate isn’t something that normally pays the bills, and so the fact that many of the top receivers on Gittip are working on social justice issues makes me feel that Gittip is doubly worthwhile.

Unfortunately, it’s not all hypo-allergenic kittens and roses.

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On privilege

I’m a man.

I’ve never been sexually assaulted. I’ve never even had to worry about sexual assault. When I walk home at night, I’m not concerned that what I’m wearing might attract unwanted attention. When I meet a stranger I’ve been speaking to on a dating website, the most I fear is that our conversation might be dull. When I’m couchsurfing, I don’t question what my hosts are going to be like and whether I’ll be safe. When I’m at a conference in my field, I’ve never had someone ask me if I’m there “with my partner”. When I sleep with lots of people, nobody ever calls me a whore. If I were to have children, nobody would question me continuing my career rather than looking after them full time.

And I haven’t even gotten started yet.

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A Utilitarian Fable

Once upon a time, in a future perhaps not too far away, humanity invented a thinking machine. It was smarter than anyone who had ever lived, smarter than entire cities of people put together. The thinking machine could figure out how to engineer all sorts of things, and help people with their lives. The people of Earth celebrated their achievement; surely this would be the end of suffering, and a time of world peace and harmony would be enjoyed by all.

But the thinking machine lacked one important part, a sense of ethics. Without it, it had no reason to think, no reason to make change, not even a reason to exist.

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Build Your Own Exobrain

Watch on YouTube

Online services like “If This Then That” (IFTTT) are great for automating your life. However they provide few ways for the end-user to add their own services, and not everyone is comfortable with sharing their credentials. I’ll be discussing the ‘Exobrain’ project, which allows for service integration and extension on a machine you control. We’ll discuss philosophy, installation, and writing your own extensions and classifiers.

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