Dual Book Talk | Algorithms out of control: new books in conversation
Join the Institute for Public Knowledge for a dual book event with authors David B. Auerbach and Meredith Broussard, in conversation with Natasha Schüll and Angela Wu. See more info on each book below.
Meganets: How Digital Forces Beyond Our Control Commandeer Our Daily Lives and Inner Realities
Auerbach argues that there is no hand on the tiller of some of the largest global digital forces that influence our daily lives — from corporate sites such as Facebook, Amazon, Google, YouTube, Instagram, and Reddit to the burgeoning metaverse encompassing cryptocurrencies and online gaming to government systems such as China’s Social Credit System and India’s Aadhaar. The interactions of billions of people with unfathomably large online networks produce a new sort of beast that operates beyond the control of the individuals, companies, and governments that created them. Meganets have a life of their own as they accumulate data and modify themselves in response to user behavior, resulting in collectively authored algorithms that actively resist attempts to control them…
More Than a Glitch: Confronting Race, Gender, and Ability Bias in Tech
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? Broussard demonstrates how neutrality in tech is a myth and why algorithms need to be held accountable. 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, she shows, fallible humans develop programs that can result in devastating consequences…
David B. Auerbach is a writer, technologist, and software engineer who has worked at Google and Microsoft. He has written for venues including The Nation, Times Literary Supplement, MIT Technology Review, n+1, Tablet, and The Daily Beast, and was Slate’s technology columnist from 2013 to 2016. He teaches on the history of computation at the New Centre for Research and Practice. His first book, Bitwise: A Life in Code, was published by Pantheon in 2018.
Meredith Broussard is a data journalist and associate professor at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute of New York University, research director at the NYU Alliance for Public Interest Technology,. Her first book, Artificial Unintelligence: How Computers Misunderstand the World, was published by MIT Press in 2019 and won that year’s Prose Award in Computing and Information Sciences, along with the 2019 Hacker Prize from the Society for the History of Technology.
Natasha Schüll, associate professor in NYU’s Media, Culture, and Communication, is a cultural anthropologist whose work explores the psychic life of digital technology with a focus on themes of addiction, anxiety, and affect modulation.
Angela Wu, assistant professor in NYU’s Media, Culture, and Communication, is a communications scholar working in the fields of critical data studies, platform studies, the political economy of media and media governance, and post/socialism studies.