Computer History Museum Honors Khan Academy Founder

The museum’s new Tech for Humanity Awards go to Sal Khan and AI researchers working on diagnostics and bias

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Khan Academy founder Sal Khan poses for a portrait in Mountain View, Calif., on Jan. 14, 2021.
Khan Academy founder Sal Khan poses for a portrait in Mountain View, Calif., on Jan. 14, 2021.
Photo: Dai Sugano/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News/Getty Images

The Computer History Museum has created a new award: the Patrick J. McGovern Tech for Humanity Luminary. And in April it named the first wininer—Sal Khan, whose founding of the free online Khan Academy kicked off a revolution in online education. Khan founded his namesake nonprofit in 2008; to date, the free online courses have reached 120 million registered users in 190 countries to date.

The museum also selected projects by two tech researchers for support, dubbing the researchers as Patrick J. McGovern Tech for Humanity Changemakers. Mercy Nyamewaa Asiedu and Michael Bernstein will each receive $50,000, use of the Museum’s resources, and other non-financial support to help advance their work.

Asiedu, an IEEE member, bioengineer, and postdoctoral fellow at MIT, is working to apply deep learning to portable ultrasound imaging. Her aim is to use it as part of her effort to commercialize low-cost cervical cancer screening tools. She is also developing a telemedicine platform for use in managing chronic disease in Africa.

Bernstein, a professor of computer science at Stanford, is working to reduce bias in AI by modeling his machine learning tools on juries. In his approach, juries are designed to explicitly represent diverse populations and “vote” to determine the decisions of the system. Both the composition of the juries and the votes will be transparent, allowing nontechnical users to understand their processes.

Going forward, the Museum will present the Patrick J. McGovern Tech for Humanity awards annually. McGovern was a member of the Computer History Museum’s original board of directors when Gwen and Gordon Bell founded the museum in the early 1980s. McGovern started the International Data Corp., later the International Data Group, which established Computerworld, PC World, Macworld, and hundreds of other publications.

Information about nominating candidates “pursuing creative and meaningful projects that examine, interpret, develop, or apply technology to shape a better future for humanity” for future awards is available here.

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