NIPS is to Drag Suit

Read an article about NIPS considering changing it’s name because it is slang for either many anything Japanese people or a nipple visible through clothing.

This reminds me of a conversation I had with someone explaining what a drag suit is, or rather what it isn’t. Drag suit increase water resistance and makes it harder for a swimmer to swim. And this is for normal atheistic swimmers, not a special-interest niche of people.

But I didn’t mind explaining it at all.

For people who grew up with NIPS and not nip or nips, there is no confusion.

Also, the review and data gathered to decide to keep the name was interesting exercise in data science, imho. The committee lamented that half of the opinionated women wants to change and half do not. (Opinionated in that they expressed a non-neutral preference in the official survey.) It would be a displeasure to half of the women both changing and not changing the name. The feminist infection I got from a youthful encounter is rolling my eyes and chewing the word “men!!!”

And honestly, of all the people that I’ve ever met who knew of NIPS, CS/mathy folks, many of hem leaders of this field, they didn’t seem the inappropriate kind. To these people, there are far more amusing artifacts of nature, and corollarily, hacks to nature, that render these kind of jokes and computer hacking kind of uninteresting. But admittedly, with diversity come these kind of cultural inconveniences–and by diversity, here, I mean in addition to there being women, the diversity of professional cultures and standards of behavior. When you bring doctors and lawyers and biologists and statisticians and business people, and pliticians, and judges(federal and appeals and…) and drug companies and weapons companies and social network companies to a academic conference… this little problem with a slang, albeit very sensitive, should seems rather small and inconsequential in the face of the more material challenged AI faces.

Let’s hope that problem is addressed systematically as humanity grows.

And CS will survive this! I mean considering it survived explaining why the Neural Information Processing Systems was dominated by Tree based methods, boosting, kernel methods, Bayesian methods for so long a time, and only now do we finally have anything remotely Neural. Nobody minded explaining then and no body should worry now.

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