You Can't Get Away From It All

BURNS, OR -- You can get away, but not from it all. I'm sitting in Burns, Oregon. It is in the ruminant gut of the state -- geographically and philosophically planted squarely between the fading tie dye grooviness of Eugene and the up and coming trendiness of Boise, Idaho. For most vacationers, Burns is the place they can't remember stopping until their gasoline credit card charges come in the mail. People don't buy many post cards of Burns.I have stopped here intermittently for most of the last decade mainly because it was such a refreshing franchise-free zone. The freeway would be faster and the northern route would be more wooded, but this has always been the proverbial road less traveled. There is a chow house on the edge of town that has a sign that boldly ( and inaccurately) proclaims " Worst Food In Oregon." The town also has a saw mill big enough to dry dock the Queen Mary even though there are no trees in sight. You have to love a town with such eclectic sensibilities.But apparently since my last visit Burns, which is really the Burns-Hines metroplex, has experienced a Renaissance of sorts. Though the saw mill and "Worst Food" are still there, ill winds have blown through my range land oasis. The motels and the restaurants are full.It is like just about every other town in the west. Burns has "jazz in the park," it has $1.25 cups of coffee and a bookstore with a cat that roams the isle. It is starting to get that whole Utne Reader, National Public Radio, Birkenstocks-are-really-worth $100, "where can I buy a New York Times?" sort of vibe.The town also now has one of those new McDonald's with the "playland" that looks like a miniature Disney version of the Biosphere. I really think these are little cubicles designed to trap our children like giant roach motels and hold them until the alien mother ships come to whisk them away, but that's another story.One long-time resident points out where the Motel-6 used to be. "Yep, the whole thing burned down after some guy's crystal meth amphetamine lab blew up." Who'd have thought Motel-6 was a magnet for crime? The town appears to be at that dangerous crossroads of a Starbucks or a Walmart -- it could go either way. With Starbucks comes that whole franchise ready short, tall, grande, latte, mocha game that I refuse to play. I like to go to Starbucks and order a "medium cup of coffee" just to watch them squirm. With Walmart comes the whole mega-shopping, uniformed greeters thing that people say they hate, but somehow the stock prices keep going up. You can get away, but sooner or later it all finds you.

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Imagine you've forgotten once again the difference between a gorilla and a chimpanzee, so you do a quick Google image search of “gorilla." But instead of finding images of adorable animals, photos of a Black couple pop up.

Is this just a glitch in the algorithm? Or, is Google an ad company, not an information company, that's replicating the discrimination of the world it operates in? How can this discrimination be addressed and who is accountable for it?

“These platforms are encoded with racism," says UCLA professor and best-selling author of Algorithms of Oppression, Dr. Safiya Noble. “The logic is racist and sexist because it would allow for these kinds of false, misleading, kinds of results to come to the fore…There are unfortunately thousands of examples now of harm that comes from algorithmic discrimination."

On At Liberty this week, Dr. Noble joined us to discuss what she calls “algorithmic oppression," and what needs to be done to end this kind of bias and dismantle systemic racism in software, predictive analytics, search platforms, surveillance systems, and other technologies.

What you can do:
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