The Politics of (In)Humanity

Yesterday, I marked my 53rd year on the planet. During my time in this mortal coil, I've observed that the art of politics has devolved from at least a pretense of statesmanship, to little more than a game of one-upmanship. Who scores the most points with the voters and the press? Can perceptions be managed in the least damaging way possible? What about whipping the base into a foaming lather (whether the "base" we're talking about is Democratic or Republican)?

One of the most disturbing aspects of modern day politics is the personalization of attacks and absence of humanity by the practitioners in the game. Whether it's Rush Limbaugh mocking Michael J. Fox's Parkinson's convulsions, or other GOP mouthpieces cynically suggesting that John Edwards is using his wife's illness as a ploy to capture headlines, it's enough to make a person say, "Enough!".

There are few of us who haven't been touched in some manner by the ravages of cancer. The cynical suggestion that anyone would use the disease to further their own personal agendas is nothing less than abhorrent. But that's how people like Rush work - the end game of partisan personal attacks, and influencing a decreasingly compliant base of dittoheads, justifies the means...

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.

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