Will Afghanistan Become the Saudi Arabia of Lithium?

It seems that Afghanistan is a never-ending font of surprises. For decades U.S. officials took the position that Afghanistan held nothing of value for the United States, especially in the form of vital strategic resources. That assumption was a major reason for America’s consistently dismissive attitude toward Afghanistan up until the Soviet invasion of 1979 and why the U.S. was content to turn the country over to Pakistan and Saudi Arabian interests following the Soviet departure. Then on June 13, 2010 the New York Times reported in a front-page story that a small team of Pentagon officials and American geologists had suddenly discovered a vast treasure of Afghanistan’s mineral wealth worth nearly $1 trillion dollars.

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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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