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Harness the power of words

A glossary of new terms and technologies you'll find reading Experience's Ethics & Equity stories

By Schuyler Velasco

The rise of machine learning has bred ethical conundrums that we couldn’t imagine even a decade ago. Do AI-powered chatbots have feelings? Do social robots make effective teachers? It’s also given rise to new challenges of equity and access. AI and algorithms are created by humans, after all, and without careful consideration, future technology can perpetuate human assumptions and biases from the past. It’s a huge conversation, and it requires a new vocabulary to have it effectively. Click a word or phrase below to read the article in which it appears.

A machine learning application designed to approximate human conversation. Chatbots are commonly used in customer service settings, from directing calls to the appropriate channels to offering online tech support.

Coercive compliance
An educational concept describing classroom management strategies that force good behavior without context, rather than teaching students the difference between right and wrong.

Growth mindset 
The belief that rather than being innate, talents can be developed through effort and perseverance.   

Helicopter parent
A parent who is overprotective or overly involved in their child’s day-to-day life, including school and social interactions. So-named because they “hover overhead” in strictly supervising their children. The metaphor was first credited to a teenager profiled in the 1969 book Between Parent & Teenager, who complained that his mother “hovers over him like a helicopter.” The term gained wider usage in the 1990s and early 2000s.

The Louisiana Weekly
A weekly newspaper published in New Orleans. Founded in 1925 by one of the city’s prominent Black families, the publication covers topics of interest to the Black community, including public health and social justice issues.

An adjective used to describe real-life situations or ideas that call to mind the dystopian fictional future described in George Orwell’s 1949 literary classic Nineteen Eighty-Four: A Novel and other writings. It tends to refer to the use of propaganda, surveillance, doublespeak, and disinformation to control citizens, particularly by suppressive state governments. In 2003, The New York Times called Orwellian “the most widely-used adjective derived from the name of a modern writer” in the English language.

In a political sense, the drift of differing ideologies and positions away from each other and toward ideological extremes. In U.S. politics, it refers to the vast and growing gap between liberals and conservatives, who increasingly sort themselves in near-lockstep along Republican and Democratic party lines.

Racial covenants
Legal clauses inserted into property deeds in the 1910s through 1940s that restricted land use and homeownership based on race, largely to exclude Black residents from owning homes in certain neighborhoods. Despite being largely illegal for decades, racial covenants have had lingering effects, including exacerbating the racial wealth gap in the U.S.  

Restorative justice
A philosophy of seeking redress for crimes and wrongdoing that looks beyond the crime-and-punishment framework of the modern legal system. Instead, it emphasizes repairing harm done, by drawing attention, acknowledgment, and some degree of closure to cases from the past. 

Social robots
Robots that can engage in personalized and adaptive social interactions with humans. Powered by machine learning, they’re designed for tasks ranging from education to patient care and customer service.

Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
The main organization for Black student activists during the civil rights movement of the 1960s. The group emerged from the student sit-ins across the South to protest Jim Crow laws, and its members— including Civil Rights heroes like John Lewis — spearheaded Freedom Rides and Black voter registration drives across the South.

Truth and Reconciliation Commission 
A restorative justice body organized in South Africa in 1996, after the end of the apartheid era of racial segregation. In public hearings, victims of the human rights violations carried out in the name of apartheid gave statements about their experiences, and perpetrators could receive amnesty in exchange for a full and thorough admission of guilt. The commission also had an arm geared toward granting reparations to victims. 

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Schuyler Velasco is Experience's Senior Editor.


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