On art, truth and brutality

Playwright Harold Pinter may be ill, old and frail of body, but the Nobel acceptance speech he delivered by video link Wednesday was an unflinching, ferocious and eloquent attack on U.S. foreign policy. The 75-year-old author, who was too ill to travel to Stockholm to accept the prize, gave his lecture from a wheelchair, in a voice that was hoarse but composed.

He began the speech with a discussion about his own creative process, pondering the mystery of how characters are born and saying that, while truth may be elusive, we must be faithful in its pursuit.

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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.

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