Jeremy Howard’s Run-In With Codes of Conduct

I am planning to sign up for Jeremy Howard’s Fast.AI Deep Learning courses. They are rumored to be excellent and, after finishing my Deep Learning class for Georgia Tech, I could use some additional practice with real projects.

I was surprised that the very first page of Howard’s website is dedicated to him defending himself against accusations of having violated the code of conduct at the NumFocus’s JupyterCon Conference.

Simply put, Jeremy chose to disagree with another presenter, Joel Grus, over whether or not Jupyter Notebooks are a good idea. Someone (Joel?) complained his disagreement wasn’t ‘kind’ and so he suddenly found himself on the receiving end of a code of conduct inquiry.

Howard’s is an outspoken critic of lack of inclusion in the tech industry (follow him on Twitter and like 3/4th of his tweets are on this subject), so he’s been a strong proponent of codes of conduct because he sees this as a path towards greater inclusion. Reading his argument, you can see how frustrated he is that he’s wound up in a code of conduct inquiry like this:

I have no idea what happened here – why some people decided to use a code that was, apparently, written to protect people from sexism, violence, racism, and intimidation, in this way. I know that I’ve made many enemies this year with my advocacy of universal masking, and have had to deal with constant harassment and even death threats as a result. I’ve also received a lot of abuse over recent years from some due to my attempts to democratize AI, from those who have felt their privileged positions threatened.

This is a situation that says so much that I feel no need to say anything more about it. But I’d love to hear what others think. I’m particularly itching to hear from my libertarian comrades.

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