Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Is Hewlett-Packard Racist?

There is no doubt that this video is comical, and the Black man’s disbelief seems well-founded. The participants illustrate a half-baked face-tracking technology, using HP’s embedded camera in their PC. The engineers at HP responsible for such poor effort should be fired, because they are incompetent at a level far below what Bill Hewlett or Dave Packard could have ever stomached. This I know, as a former HP’r.

My first job out of college was working for HP, as a programmer. At that time, nearly 30 years ago, the company routinely over-engineered its products such that the face-tracking program in question would have not only accurately followed White and Black faces, but also Wookies, E.T.’s, and all the Disney characters ever made. Such an obvious flaw weighs heavily on the quality of all HP products and services.

What’s left is whether or not this product and the company that made it is racist. I would say not. Unfortunately some Black people yell racism like a ball park vendor hawking peanuts – often and to whoever has ears. Computers are not sentient (yet), and no one at HP would purposely make such an obvious goof, given the career-limiting consequences.

In the old days at HP, poor engineers didn’t get fired, they just were not given new projects to work on. Engineer 1: Hey, what are you working on? Engineer 2: Nothing. Engineer 1: Ok - so how’s the job search going? But, what I really want to know is why I should care about face tracking at all? I don’t want people stalking me, if I can help it. Seems like a technology in search of a home. Bill and Dave are undoubtedly shaking their after-life heads and wondering what the hell is going on with their wonder baby.

James C. Collier


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Anonymous said...


In the future, light sensing technology, will be used in applications with potential life threatening results... so if yelling "racist" now prevents companies from promoting software that "works correctly" only in optimal conditions or "fails" too infrequently (think Toyota) to be pulled from the market, so be it.

James C. Collier said...

Anon 6:59, I hope you mean 'life-saving results', and I will be happy to see those future applications. However, miss labeling something that is stupid, as racist, reduces the effectiveness of communication and response.