Virginia Eubanks, author of Automating Inequality: How High Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor, argues that technological solutions to poverty are inherently flawed because they view poverty as a social inevitability, rather than the result of deliberate, purposeful economic policy decisions — “something to be managed rather than eradicated.”
Like other technologists who have argued against technology’s supposed impartiality, Eubanks is absolutely right.
However, Eubanks also asserts that technology is being increasingly applied to complex social problems out of a misguided attempt to tackle homelessness more efficiently. Subjective matters of need are reduced to algorithmic equations. By removing the difficult, emotional, inefficient aspects of administering social services, we can help more people, more effectively — a classic example of Silicon Valley’s productivity gospel, at least in theory.
While greater efficiency is undoubtedly one goal of an increasingly algorithmic approach to social welfare, I’d argue that technology is being used to deal with poverty for another reason — so we literally don’t have to look at it.Read More