Image borrowed from John Murray article on related topic on

…you’re a lot more like it that you think; particularly as you feed yourself with artificial data and artificial experiences.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to attend a screening of the documentary film Bias. My goal in attending was to strengthen my personal commitment to creating a equitable and fair organization from the beginning. The film highlights the reality that we all have hidden bias that influence how we see the world. I knew I have bias before seeing the movie, but it was a great reminder; not only that we have them, but where they come from. It’s a great film. You should see it and take some time to review your own view of the world. And, if you don’t think you have bias – think again. Maybe try the Harvard University Project Implicit bias test IAT.  Having bias doesn’t make us wrong or evil, it’s part of being human.

Our bias are a reflection of our world experience and the data that’s been fed into our minds. Another more comfortable word we use for the same thing is ‘paradigm.’ The film had a great example of searching Google images for ‘grandma.’  Nearly all the images are old white ladies. With all of Google’s AI and massive amounts of data… Google thinks ‘grandma’ is an old white lady. Go look.

When people talk about AI ‘learning’ … that means the AI gets fed a bunch of data. If you only feed it images of ‘old white ladies’ then it learns grandma is an old white lady. For AI to learn how to play poker, or chess, it simply needs to gather enough data about what leads to winning and what leads to losing. Try things and practice. WAKE UP CALL!  Guess what.  That’s the same way humans learn to play chess, poker, do work, or anything else.

The more you play or practice – generally the better you get. Experience (DATA) feeds our minds with more and more data till our own algorithm gets better and better at predicting the best response or action in a given situation. Our mental and muscle memory begins to approximate the best solution.

I spent 2 years (1978-1980) living in the middle east.  That was back when I was 11 and 12 years old. I made great friendships with people from all around the world. That became the foundation for my love of travel and enjoying many different cultures. Many of my very best friends were Muslim. Both from North Africa and across the Middle East. As children do, we spent hours together in each other’s houses. I slept at their houses, ate their food. Shared their clothes. I came to love their warm family values, kindness and service. I recognize this contradicts the paradigm most other Americans have of Arab and Muslim people. I had tens of thousands of positive experiences with Muslim people (and still do), while most other people have seen hundreds of very negative terrorist laden media reports.

I’m sure the intensity of 911 and the various wars have also created a negative bias within me. But mostly, I feel sad that such an amazing group of people are believed to be so evil because of the groups of extremists that fight for power and control and have largely fed the flow of data into the media and into our minds. Even now, I’m sure some of you have such a strong related bias that you are convinced I’m wrong.


It would be foolish to think that we can completely segment good data and experience from all the crap we flow into our minds. Consider the massive acceleration of data flowing into our own minds and that of our children. If we could be sure the data flowing in reflected reality, then more data should make us smarter and help our own AI algorithm process correctly. However, by far the largest amount of data flowing into our minds is distorted. Social media overwhelmingly highlights an airbrushed view of the world. Rich. Skinny. Beautiful. Travel. Amazing food. My life is clearly lessor because I’m not always on vacation and enjoying a perfect life.

Remember the Don Henley song – Dirty Laundry? Fake news isn’t a new thing. News broadcasts have been designed for many decades to attract interest and sell advertising. Yet, we continue to allow the massive magnification of negative and evil to flow into our minds every day. It’s far to easy to allow anxiety and fear to move us toward decisions that aren’t remotely supported by real life.

In reality, the probability of my kid getting snatched while they walk to school is a zillion times less likely than the probability they will grow up to be incapable of making good decisions and taking care of themselves. But now more than ever, parents insist on driving their kids to school.

Consider the sitcom distorted way that people talk to each other; sarcasm and sass. It’s no wonder that family and human relationships are struggling. Consider the distorted view from Hollywood about sexuality and violence. Or what types of actors/cultures are portrayed as dangerous, genius, fast or slow? All of this feeds our minds with an inaccurate view of reality. This is one of many sources of implicit bias that we simply accept into our minds without recognizing it’s shifting the way we see the world.

Much of the data we are feeding our algorithm is simply bad data. Sure, it can be entertaining. But it is influencing and driving our own algorithm and paradigm.

Awareness is the first step to solving the problem.

Here’s my own game plan.  You should create your own.

  1. Always remind myself that I have implicit bias and flag those topics and situations for deliberate thinking rather than automated responses
    1. Slow down to filter and decide and act based on higher quality subset of data rather than jumping to the ‘average’ of all my data
  2. Surround myself with people who are different than I am. Integrate their experience and thinking into mine
    1. Always listen to and respect other beliefs and opinions
  3. Take control and responsibility. Be more deliberate about what I flow into my mind
    1. Be more selective about media and entertainment
    1. Consume more uplifting entertainment than Hollywood action, violence, and sex
  4. Focus on learning centered data more than simply pleasure and entertainment
  5. Seek a broad diversity of life experience

It’s a powerful learning to recognize that each of us are only as smart as the data feeding our own AI. Sadly, much of today’s data is artificial; social media, unreliable news, tradition and culture. Rather than simply plugging our minds into endless data feeds. We need to invest in creating true learning, and real experience for ourselves and our families.

Get out of the internet and get into real life.

Have you ever seen and held a real fish? When’s the last time you flew a kite? Hiked a mountain? Visited with an old person and listened to their real-life stories? Planted your own garden and ate food from your garden? Baked your own bread? Built something? Visit and eat at someone’s house in a different country or culture? Play catch? Throw a frisbee? Swim in the ocean? …

These real-life experiences are tremendously more valuable than simply watching the same on TV or the internet. Your algorithm is starving for better, more real data.

Get up. Get out. Live life. Learn. Grow.