, 14 tweets, 4 min read Read on Twitter
Been thinking about @mit @MIT_CSAIL #Stallman

I started at MIT in 1991 as a 18yo girl who'd coded in LISP for 4 years, gobbled up Society of Mind, competed in high school national science fairs with a neural net I'd trained to recognize emotions in music (kinda ;) ).

Needless to say, studying AI at MIT was a dream come true.

Then I dropped out of AI and CS by the end of my freshman year.

I've never been able to pinpoint why.

At the time I said it was because I found AI at school really boring -- I'd read the AI book already and the lecturer (Winston) just lectured to the book. Sure. But really???

I didn't have other good reasons. I ended up with a nearly perfect GPA at MIT in EE so it wasn't that it was *too hard*.

I've programmed at work for the 25 years since I graduated. I've ended up cofounding a successful #opensource #openscience startup. It isn't that I wasn't interested in code or free software and related philosophy.


Believe it or not, it isn't that I experienced explicit sexism. I didn't. Zero, other than one TA who never called on me. That's it. In my whole MIT. I didn't hear about the need for plant walls to ward anyone off -- didn't know others were experiencing that kind of thing.

Ableson/Sussman were supposed to teach my coding class (6.001) but they took that semester off. I was disappointed. We had a woman prof. She tried to make everything cute, cartoony, easy. I didn't like that, wanted the hard version.

I did a brief UROP with Pattie Maes in the Media Lab (I was a fan girl of her and Brooks's robotics papers from high school).

Really brief. I quit after a week or two. No good reason, I just felt extremely nervous the whole time.

Then I tried getting a part-time admin job at what became @MIT_CSAIL , figuring I'd get comfy around university labs and AI, then try for another UROP. Lasted a few months, awkward the whole time, then I quit.

That's it. By the end of my freshman year I decided I didn't like AI, didn't even want to go CS, would go Electrical Engineering instead. Digital Signal Processing, and I loved it. I think the ratio was even worse fwiw, but didn't matter.

Anyway. That's it. Nothing very dramatic here at all.

Maybe just a kid finding her way, feeling nervous, bouncing her way around while she found her confidence.

That's what I've always thought, and may indeed be the whole story.

But also I wonder if my experience is what happens when someone subconsciously detects they aren't welcome? They quit. Blame it on other things. Move on.

Uncomfortable suggesting that. Not much evidence, you know? And is sufficiently explained by other things? Kinda?

But maybe this is one small part of what the collateral damage looks when a field is unwelcoming.

People quit. They blame it on other things.

I dunno, but I think maybe.
I do know I sure loved AI, and I was good at it, then I quit.

Luckily for me, I dunno if you've noticed but AI has got a bit popular again. I'll catch it this time round :)

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