cover image More than a Glitch: Confronting Race, Gender, and Ability Bias in Tech

More than a Glitch: Confronting Race, Gender, and Ability Bias in Tech

Meredith Broussard. MIT, $26.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-262-04765-4

“The biases embedded in technology are more than mere glitches; they’re baked in from the beginning,” argues Broussard (Artificial Intelligence), a data journalism professor at New York University, in this scathing polemic. Telling the stories of individuals from marginalized communities who have been wronged by technology, the author shows how design and conceptual failures produce unfair outcomes. She describes how a Black man was arrested by Detroit police because a facial recognition algorithm incorrectly flagged him as a match for a shoplifter, reflecting the tendency of such programs to produce false matches for people of color, who are underrepresented in the images used to train those programs. Other case studies are Kafkaesque, such as the Black Chicago man who was shot twice under suspicion of being a snitch because police cars frequently parked outside his house after predictive policing software identified him as at risk for gun violence. The author condemns “technochauvinism,” or the belief that “computational solutions [are] superior to all other solutions,” as exemplified by the story of a Deaf Apple Store employee who was denied an on-site interpreter because Apple preferred alternative, inadequate solutions that used its products. The stories enrage and drive home the cost of the failures and prejudices built into ostensibly cutting-edge programs. This sobering warning about the dangers of technology alarms and unsettles. (Mar.)