Using Our Intelligence
The July cover story examined how AI can both distort and support the news.
Thanks to @StanfordMag for the feature. Shaping #AI’s creators is as important as changing the AI itself. Our goal is to become an interdisciplinary, global hub for ethical, human-centered AI technologies and applications.
Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence
As was once said, “figures don’t lie, but liars figure,” and today’s journalism and the rapid advancement of technology are inextricably intertwined.
Today the right, tomorrow the left?
It would be hard to overestimate the potential for the misuse of modern technology.
Bob Olson, ’60
San Ramon, California
Using AI and algorithms to write stories and help journalists be more efficient with limited resources is not enough to help local news. It’s a Silicon Valley way of approaching problems—throwing expensive tech at it.
This year, I co-founded Santa Cruz Local, a news podcast and website covering local government. We’re part of a small but quickly growing movement that’s spreading across the country: local homegrown online newsrooms led by former print journalists with deep roots in the community. Watch for one to pop up in your community soon, and support it. We just might save local news.
Kara Meyberg Guzman, ’05
Santa Cruz, California
The Sunset Years
“The Legend of the Almost Lost” (July) recounted how Sunset editors and Stanford librarians banded together to save a venerable set of archives.
When I carried mail for two summers in the ’60s, nearly 100 percent of the customers in Menlo Park and Redwood City were Sunset subscribers. That meant that it was backbreaking to throw a mailbag over your shoulder on delivery days, especially on some of the hilly routes. In spite of that, it was always a delight to receive the magazine at my parents’ house in Mountain View. After all, we were part of the 100 percent, and I still consult the gardening guide all the time.
Warren Snaider, ’68
Thanks for telling of the rescue of the Sunset archive, and thanks as well to Stanford’s and other libraries for preserving what they can of print journalism, as it is greatly headed to the scrap heap. Anthropologists may puzzle.
Tim W. Ferguson, ’77
Water Mill, New York
It is a real shame that the otherwise interesting article by Michael Shapiro neglected to mention the book we in the Stanford Libraries published in 1998 entitled Sunset Magazine: A Century of Western Living, 1989-1998: Historical Portraits and Bibliography. That book includes essays by L.W. “Bill” Lane Jr., ’42, and Melvin B. Lane, ’44, as well as an excellent essay by the late Kevin Starr, acknowledged leading historian of California, entitled “Sunset Magazine and the Phenomenon of the Far West.” That book is still in print and we would be happy to send a copy without cost to anyone requesting one. In addition, there is an online exhibit that is searchable and includes numerous illustrations from Sunset. The chronological bibliography is an easy means to understand the growth and change of approaches and interests in 10 areas, from “building and remodeling” to “workshop and craft projects,” over the 100 years of Sunset celebrated by that book.
Michael A. Keller
Vice Provost and University Librarian
Vice Provost for Teaching and Learning
Publisher, Stanford University Press
Having worked at Time (1959-64), then Sunset (1964), then Time again (1965-72) made me wonder what Henry Luce would have done. Surely Meredith Corp. values the archive that accompanies Time, Fortune, Sports Illustrated and others to its headquarters in Des Moines. The owners of the Life logo are still milking the “morgue,” which, when the magazine itself was finally discontinued in 1972, contained drawers and drawers of unused film from every weekly and biweekly issue since 1937.
I am proud of Stanford for jumping on the historic value of Sunset’s treasure of research and chronicles of 100 years of western living from kitchen to garden to highway.
Pity the folks at Regent who will now have to come to campus every time they want to research the first time an avocado became guacamole dip.
Tony Thompson, ’55
Adamsville, Rhode Island
Clothes Make the Man
I loved him as an Oriole. Not so much as pictured.
Scott Anderson, MS ’95
Photo: Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports
In May, the President’s Column discussed admissions in higher education in the context of the recent fraud scheme.
President Tessier-Lavigne says that universities “need to do a better job explaining our admissions process.” But then he fails to answer the question about the admissions process that applicants, parents and alumni want to know: What preference is given to legacies and to children from wealthy families? Until and unless Stanford is willing to be honest about these issues, the country will continue to be “suspicious that select institutions cater primarily to the privileged,” which he cites as a problem. There is no shame in giving preference to legacies or applicants whose families can help the long-term stability of Stanford; the shame comes from not coming clean on these issues.
Jim Sutton, JD ’88
San Francisco, California
The May cover story focused on why dance matters.
Although your article described the benefits of dance for patients with Parkinson’s disease, it didn’t mention the extraordinary documentary on that subject written and directed in 2014 by my Stanford classmate Dave Iverson, ’71. Dave’s film, Capturing Grace, screened to sold-out audiences all over the country and won audience awards at a number of national film festivals. For those interested in the ways that dance benefits patients with movement challenges, it’s well worth a viewing.
Margaret Earl Cooper, ’71
New Canaan, Connecticut
In the excitement of the nobility of his undertaking, Mantheakis may have overlooked a major fact of recent history. The editor also boldly flagged the point, which I quote: “If Britain could give back India, then surely the emptying of one room of a London museum is a small price to pay to right a historical wrong.”
There is no doubt that India was the prized colony of the British Empire. But Mantheakis has challenged the accuracy, the ethics and the sensibility of the people when he uses the phrase, “If Britain could give back India.”
He is perhaps unaware of or slighting the sentiments of over a billion and a half people who inhabit the subcontinent. The struggle for independence of India spanned over one century. The teeming masses paid in the life and property that always accompanies the
struggle for freedom.
Mantheakis could rightly champion the return of the Koh-i-Noor diamond, which is studded in one of the crowns of the British monarchy, to India.
Gulfaraz Ahmed, MS ’85, PhD ’90
During a visit to the Parthenon sculptures at the British Museum in October 2018, the engineer in me noted that substantial damage had occurred to the marble blocks on exhibit. I photographed 48 of the blocks along the walls and saw that there were no undamaged blocks. Reviewing my photographs revealed that 83.3 percent of the blocks (40 total) were damaged on the upper left corner, 89.6 percent of the blocks (43 total) were damaged on the upper right corner, 43.8 percent of the blocks (21 total) were damaged on the lower right corner and 64.6 percent of the blocks (31 total) were damaged on the lower left corner. The differences in frequency of damage between the upper corners and the lower corners suggests that the damage is not random but rather that there is a systematic cause. The blocks on display in the British Museum are less than half as thick as they were on the Parthenon. To reduce weight, Elgin’s workmen sawed the blocks on the Parthenon to reduce their thickness, thereby increasing their susceptibility to damage. Of particular interest to me was a point where Elgin’s men apparently sawed directly through a sculpture, presumably to create a block that was small enough to handle.
The process of creating the blocks, removing the blocks from the Parthenon, transporting them to and around England, and then putting them up for display has damaged the blocks. To assert that Elgin somehow saved the Parthenon sculptures is at odds with the substantial damage of the blocks on display in the British Museum. Perhaps Elgin should be categorized as one of the people who have defiled the Parthenon.
Glenn Havskjold, ’67, MS ’68, PhD ’72
Thousand Oaks, California
In answer to Mr. Schaechter’s claim that I should be a “little less angry” at Lord Elgin for desecrating the Parthenon by removing half of its sculptures (note—to decorate his home in Scotland) because Elgin probably saved them from being “stolen” and from “the awful pollution of Athens,” and because of their “abominable condition” in Athens, may I point out that these totally unfounded and debunked arguments have been used by the British Museum trustees and their colonial booty mind-think supporters to justify the unjustifiable.
To rebut: The clear blue skies of Attica outside my window now are in stark contrast to the centuries of heavy industrial air pollution in London, where as a child I remember holding hands to cross the street at midday because of lack of visibility caused by the notorious green peasouper fogs. Some 1,500 people died in one day alone in the ’50s from the pernicious opaque acid air that corroded everything it touched. In the ’60s, we couldn’t wear white shirts in London because of carbon filaments settling on our collars.
Re the conditions of the sculptures in Athens: They are in the state-of-the-art micromanaged and filtered air system of the magnificent New Acropolis Museum.
To say a thief saved them to save others stealing the sculptures exceeds even the outer limits of credulity. We continue today, quite angry with the custodians of colonial booty of all kinds, and will do so until the restitution of the Parthenon sculptures!
Alexis Mantheakis, ’67
On Your Nightstand
Alumni poured 41 reading recs into Instagram. Six of the books were written by fellow alums.
Yaa Gyasi, ’11
The Making of a Manager
Julie Zhuo, ’06, MS ’06
Tony Tulathimutte, ’05, MS ’05
When Breath Becomes Air
Paul Kalanithi, ’99, MA ’00
The Golden Gate
Vikram Seth, MA ’79
Phil Knight, MBA ’62
More on Renaming
The Associated Press reports that “the outgoing president of the University of Vermont has apologized for the school’s involvement in eugenics research in the 1920s and 1930s that helped lead to sterilizations. President Thomas Sullivan released a statement on Friday, calling it ‘unethical and regrettable.’ Last year the university decided to remove a former school president’s name from the school library because of his support of the Eugenics Survey of Vermont and its leader, a UVM professor.” Perhaps it is time for Stanford to catch up with UVM. Stanford’s first president, David Starr Jordan, and Professor Lewis Terman were centrally involved in California eugenics. Through their efforts, along with others’, Wikipedia reports that approximately 20,000 were sterilized, primarily those of Mexican descent. There is serious discussion now on campus on removing Serra’s name, but that is only a beginning. We need to remove Jordan and Terman and admit this history to the world—along with a major apology for these actions.
Allen Ivey, ’55