Overbooked: The Call for Socially Conscious Tech

, Nov 16, 2020


As we find ourselves in the last couple of months of 2020, we can’t help but reflect on the political, healthcare, and socio-cultural unrest that the country – and the world, has gone through. We’ve experienced a new level of disconnectedness brought on by the COVID19 pandemic, we’ve sought change politically in the recent presidential election, and we’ve had a long overdue awakening to systemic racism as Black Lives Matter got the momentum it’s been deprived of for so long.

As a company, our commitment to DEI has led us to take a closer look at the tech industry – which, while priding itself on agility, has failed to move the needle on workplace diversity. Too often, our conversations about technology lack historical social context and we fail to think critically about the ever-expanding technologies that have infiltrated our institutions while replicating and deepening racial hierarchies.

To close out 2020, we took inspiration from the rising recognition of systemic racism in technology and picked Race After Technology: Abolitionist Tools for the New Jim Code for this quarter’s Overbooked.

A sociologist and associate professor in the Department of African American Studies at Princeton University, author Ruha Benjamin captured a broad range of public interest in her analysis of how today’s technology carries biases that can have a detrimental impact on certain communities or groups. Her latest book, Race After Technology offers a critical and sobering examination of the relationship between machine bias and systemic racism. Throughout the book she provides anecdotes of design and calls for socially-conscious approach to tech development.

Benjamin carries through a philosophical approach that makes one question – Who do we hold accountable?  Are robots racist? Or are computer systems part of the larger matrix of systemic racism? Too often the decisions that go into building our physical and digital infrastructures are animated by a color blindness that ignore the histories that shape these automated systems.

Race After Technology inspires debate about how science and technology shape the social world and leads us to reflect on our technological history by asking Who has been harmed or held in place while innovation persists?

Join us on this journey of awakening and read along with us. We’ll be posting updates and thoughts on Twitter and LinkedIn. Stay tuned to our podcast, Hacks and Flacks, to listen to our full breakdown and discussion of the book next month!

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