Creating a Digital Poorhouse: Technology, Human Rights, and Economic Inequality

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When we hear the phrase "disruptive technologies," we often think of tools upending the status quo - companies like Uber or Airbnb or innovations like artificial intelligence or driverless cars. However, the algorithms and software architecture that powers these innovations are already in use every day - often with devastating consequences.

Today, decision-making for of social service and safety net programs - everything from Medicaid to food stamps, housing and rental assistance to child welfare - is controlled not by human beings, but by models programed to follow a pre-determined set of criteria. Proponents argue this system is more efficient, saving caseworkers thousands of hours of paperwork. However, what if these automated systems are actually a form of discrimination, working to perpetuate, rather than eliminate, the inequality they aim to address?



Virginia Eubanks, Ph.D.

Associate Professor of Political Science, University at Albany, SUNY, and author, Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor.

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