“Transformers”: Robot Warriors of the Tea Party Attack

There’s a general feeling of distress and bewilderment to “Transformers: Age of Extinction,”Michael Bay’s latest inflated, interminable and incoherent 3-D saga of robot warfare. At least some of that distress is political: The “Transformers” franchise has gradually become alienated from its Bush-era roots in gung-ho, pro-military, “Mission Accomplished” jingoism. It now partakes of a free-floating, ill-defined, Ted Cruz-style paranoia that is both psychically dispirited and distressingly low in testosterone. (There are nearly no gratuitous shots of female pulchritude in this movie, and the only suggestion of actual sexuality is a disturbing interspecies attempted rape.) I’m halfway surprised that the script for “Age of Extinction” didn’t drag in a Benghazi reference somehow. Maybe it did and I missed it; you can’t sit through a 166-minute robot-warfare movie without occasionally slipping into a fugue state. I’m going to say that again: ONE HUNDRED AND SIXTY-SIX MINUTES. That’s exactly one minute longer than the re-edited version of Andrei Tarkovsky’s medieval odyssey “Andrei Rublev,” perhaps the most legendarily arduous art film of all time. Coincidence? I think not.

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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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