Remembering Clifford Nass

Yesterday morning, I was shocked to hear about the passing of Clifford Nass over the weekend. He was a professor in Stanford’s Communication department and a brilliant researcher in computer interfaces. I’m humbled to have had the opportunity to take his courses and benefit from his mentorship, and it saddens me that he passed away in the middle of his career, with so many potential years of cutting-edge technology research still ahead of him. I first met Professor Nass as a prospective freshman at Stanford’s Admit Weekend. He was giving a presentation on his latest research on voice interfaces, which found that people have the same response to variations in gender and emotion in voice recordings, regardless of whether the voice is human or robotic. He was so enthusiastic to share his work that he could hardly finish one sentence before moving on to the next one. His presentation demonstrated ...(Read More)

Before SOPA, there was DOPA

Most U.S. internet users are familiar with the proposed Congress bill Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA). With overly broad rules and far-reaching consequences, SOPA would change the Internet as we know it by giving the U.S. censorship powers equivalent to those of political regimes in Iran or China, and by severely limiting the ability for search engines and content-sharing sites to freely index and deliver user-generating content. A similarly-named and similarly overreaching, but much lesser-known bill called the Deleting Online Predators Act (DOPA) was on the table half a decade ago, in late 2006. DOPA would have required certain public schools in the U.S. with federal funding for Internet access to block access to social networking sites where so-called adult “sexual predators” could contact and harass teenagers. While DOPA did not affect the operations of the Internet as a whole, it would have severely limited high school students’ access to ...(Read More)