Our TechCrunch Disrupt Hackathon entry was blocked from the submission gallery.
Here’s what we made:
Build-a-Buddy: Create Your Own Virtual Friend with a Custom Personality
We characterized over a hundred different personalities using the autobiographies of famous people from Anne Frank to Donald Trump.
When a user creates a new buddy profile, we match it to the closest existing personality in our database using the shortest total Euclidean distance between all the personality traits.
Then, we load the dialog file corresponding to the matching personality. We enable conversation using the IBM Watson Dialog Service API.
We had chosen to include Anne Frank to illustrate diversity. There’s no shortage of autobiographical material to profile powerful white males. With Anne Frank, we gain the personality of a persecuted 13-year-old girl.
But fine whatever. We had been up for over 24 hours and had no desire to argue. I replaced Anne Frank with Ben Franklin, a noncontroversial Anglo-Saxon slaveowner.
The Diary of Anne Frank was on my fourth grade reading list. It tells the story of six million genocide victims through the voice of a child.
When it came time for presentations, three separate hackathon organizers approached our team to ensure we would not include or display anything about “Anne Frank”. A TechCrunch editor stopped us (and only us) to review the app before we could be allowed on stage.
How did one of the most important cultural figures of the 20th century become grounds for controversy?
I’m sad about the state of Silicon Valley. I’m sad that an event that awards $5000 to a Donald Trump drinking game finds Anne Frank “potentially offensive”. I’m sad that an industry that bills itself as “disruptive” needs to police its public image.
And most of all I’m sad that writers for a leading tech publication can’t even spell “Anne Frank”.