The word “glitch” implies an incidental error, as easy to patch up as it is to identify. But what if racism, sexism, and ableism aren’t just bugs in mostly functional machinery—what if they’re coded into the system itself?
In More than a Glitch: Confronting Race, Gender, and Ability Bias in Tech, data journalist Meredith Broussard discusses the ways in which technologies reinforce inequality and how we can redesign systems to address persistent social problems and create a more equitable world. In the vein of heavy hitters such as Safiya Umoja Noble, Cathy O’Neil, and Ruha Benjamin, she demonstrates how neutrality in tech is a myth and why algorithms need to be held accountable.
Broussard, a data scientist and one of the few Black female researchers in artificial intelligence, masterfully synthesizes concepts from computer science and sociology. She explores a range of examples: from facial recognition technology trained only to recognize lighter skin tones, to mortgage-approval algorithms that encourage discriminatory lending, to the dangerous feedback loops that arise when medical diagnostic algorithms are trained on insufficiently diverse data. Even when such technologies are designed with good intentions, Broussard shows, fallible humans develop programs that can result in devastating consequences.
Broussard argues that the solution isn’t to make omnipresent tech more inclusive, but to root out the algorithms that target certain demographics as “other” to begin with. With sweeping implications for fields ranging from jurisprudence to medicine, the ground-breaking insights of More Than a Glitch are essential reading for anyone invested in building a more equitable future.
About the speaker
Data journalist Meredith Broussard is an associate professor at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute of New York University, research director at the NYU Alliance for Public Interest Technology, and the author of several books, including More Than a Glitch: Confronting Race, Gender, and Ability Bias in Tech and Artificial Unintelligence: How Computers Misunderstand the World. Her academic research focuses on artificial intelligence in investigative reporting and ethical AI, with a particular interest in using data analysis for social good. She appeared in the 2020 documentary Coded Bias, an official selection of the Sundance Film Festival that was nominated for an Emmy Award and an NAACP Image Award.
She is an affiliate faculty member at the Moore Sloan Data Science Environment at the NYU Center for Data Science, a 2019 Reynolds Journalism Institute Fellow, and her work has been supported by New America, the Institute of Museum & Library Services, and the Tow Center at Columbia Journalism School. A former features editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer, she has also worked as a software developer at AT&T Bell Labs and the MIT Media Lab. Her features and essays have appeared in The Atlantic, The New York Times, Slate, and other outlets.
About the organiser
The University of Bath Institute for Policy Research (IPR) a leading public policy research institute in the UK. We seek to further the public good through undertaking and promoting high-quality and impactful research, building links with the worlds of policy and practice, and increasing public understanding of today’s most pressing policy challenges and possible responses.
Please note that this lecture will take place online (via Zoom). It will not be recorded.