Colonial Pipeline's shutdown reveals how the United States' electric grid pays the price when things go awry

w:Christopher A. Hart, acting chairman of the w:National Transportation Safety Board inspects a junction tank of the w:Colonial Pipeline in w:Dorsey, Maryland in 2014

National Transportation Safety Board / Wikimedia Commons

From this week's East Coast fuel shortages to the bitter winter storms in Texas and Californians' suffering amid smoldering temperatures as a result of power failures, the United States' electric grids have subsequently paid the staggering cost of efficiency.

Although America's fossil fuel producers have touted the United States as an energy-independent nation, the Washington Post highlights how "the energy sector has stripped redundancy out of its systems, at the risk of leaving customers in the lurch when things go wrong." the energy sector has stripped redundancy out of its systems, at the risk of leaving customers in the lurch when things go wrong."

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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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