March 29, 2018; Slate
Behold the mighty algorithm. It assists with decision-making regarding welfare benefits, access to housing, and intervention from child protective services. These calculations ostensibly assist with improving government and social service efficiencies. But, what if your perspective is that algorithms are making a flawed system more imperfect?
A recent article in Slate examined this framework. Virginia Eubanks authored a book entitled Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor that explores the impact of algorithms on decision-making in social services. From the interview with Eubanks, there are a number of lessons for nonprofits.
The suggested framework suggests examining in a specific way how decisions affect people’s lives, and not simply looking from the larger abstract perspective.
Lesson #1: If you automate inefficiencies and inequalities, you will have an automated system that continues those inefficiencies and inequalities. “We have a tendency to talk about these tools as if they’re simple administrative upgrades”, says Eubanks. “We often b