Homelessness Isn't Inevitable But Rather A Manifestation of a Society that Is Sorely Lacking in Justice

When you first meet Paul Boden, the executive director of the Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP) that's working to end homelessness, his initial shyness leaves you unprepared for what’s about to come. Just start chatting with Boden about homelessness, and his energy surfaces as if he’s explaining the crisis for the first time. Within minutes, he’s waving his hands and dropping f-bombs, which oddly makes you warm up to him quickly. It's probably because the best part about talking to Boden is you know he’s the real deal. While homeless himself in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood in the '80s, Boden started organizing to eliminate homelessness and he's continued ever since.

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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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