Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor

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WINNER: The 2018 McGannon Center Book Prize and shortlisted for the Goddard Riverside Stephan Russo Book Prize for Social Justice

The New York Times Book Review: "Riveting."

Naomi Klein: "This book is downright scary."

Ethan Zuckerman, MIT: "Should be required reading."

Dorothy Roberts, author of Killing the Black Body: "A must-read."

Astra Taylor, author of The People's Platform: "The single most important book about technology you will read this year."

Cory Doctorow: "Indispensable."

A powerful investigative look at data-based discrimination—and how technology affects civil and human rights and economic equity

The State of Indiana denies one million applications for healthcare, foodstamps and cash benefits in three years—because a new computer system interprets any mistake as “failure to cooperate.” In Los Angeles, an algorithm calculates the comparative vulnerability of tens of thousands of homeless people in order to prioritize them for an inadequate pool of housing resources. In Pittsburgh, a child welfare agency uses a statistical model to try to predict which children might be future victims of abuse or neglect.

Since the dawn of the digital age, decision-making in finance, employment, politics, health and human services has undergone revolutionary change. Today, automated systems—rather than humans—control which neighborhoods get policed, which families attain needed resources, and who is investigated for fraud. While we all live under this new regime of data, the most invasive and punitive systems are aimed at the poor.

In Automating Inequality, Virginia Eubanks systematically investigates the impacts of data mining, policy algorithms, and predictive risk models on poor and working-class people in America. The book is full of heart-wrenching and eye-opening stories, from a woman in Indiana whose benefits are literally cut off as she lays dying to a family in Pennsylvania in daily fear of losing their daughter because they fit a certain statistical profile.

The U.S. has always used its most cutting-edge science and technology to contain, investigate, discipline and punish the destitute. Like the county poorhouse and scientific charity before them, digital tracking and automated decision-making hide poverty from the middle-class public and give the nation the ethical distance it needs to make inhumane choices: which families get food and which starve, who has housing and who remains homeless, and which families are broken up by the state. In the process, they weaken democracy and betray our most cherished national values.

This deeply researched and passionate book could not be more timely.

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About the author

Virginia Eubanks is an Associate Professor of Political Science at the University at Albany, SUNY. She is the author of Digital Dead End: Fighting for Social Justice in the Information Age and co-editor, with Alethia Jones, of Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around: Forty Years of Movement Building with Barbara Smith. Her writing about technology and social justice has appeared in Scientific American, The Nation, Harper’s, and Wired. For two decades, Eubanks has worked in community technology and economic justice movements. She lives in Troy, NY.
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Additional Information

Publisher
St. Martin's Press
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Published on
Jan 23, 2018
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Pages
288
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ISBN
9781466885967
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Language
English
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Genres
Computers / Social Aspects
Political Science / Public Policy / Social Services & Welfare
Social Science / Poverty & Homelessness
Social Science / Social Classes & Economic Disparity
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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From Harvard sociologist and MacArthur "Genius" Matthew Desmond, a landmark work of scholarship and reportage that will forever change the way we look at poverty in America
 
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Reveals a remarkable woman’s life and her contributions to social justice movements related to Civil Rights, feminism, lesbian and gay liberation, anti-racism, and Black feminism.

As an organizer, writer, publisher, scholar-activist, and elected official, Barbara Smith has played key roles in multiple social justice movements, including Civil Rights, feminism, lesbian and gay liberation, anti-racism, and Black feminism. Her four decades of grassroots activism forged collaborations that introduced the idea that oppression must be fought on a variety of fronts simultaneously, including gender, race, class, and sexuality. By combining hard-to-find historical documents with new unpublished interviews with fellow activists, this book uncovers the deep roots of today’s “identity politics” and “intersectionality” and serves as an essential primer for practicing solidarity and resistance.

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