Shopaholics, Big Spenders and People in Debt, Getting Smacked by Economic Reality

The tires on his Ford Taurus were shot. He was months behind on his payments for everything. He slept in a walk-in closet, at arm's length from a toilet. Opening the mail one day in that malodorous shared Baltimore townhouse, Sam MacDonald faced "a new pile of bills. Credit card. Credit card. Credit card. No surprise there. But then another envelope caught my eye. Student loans." A serial job-quitter and freelance editor -- in, of all fields, financial publishing -- MacDonald had graduated a few years earlier from Yale.

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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.

What you can do:
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