Virginia Eubanks

presents

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

in conversation with ETHAN ZUCKERMAN

This event includes a book signing

Date

Mar
23
Friday
March 23, 2018
3:00 PM

Location

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Tickets

This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store, Harvard Kennedy School's digitalHKS, the MIT Center for Civic Media, and Mass Humanities welcome VIRGINIA EUBANKS, Associate Professor of Political Science at the University at Albany SUNY, for a discussion of her latest book, Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor. She will be joined in conversation by ETHAN ZUCKERMAN, director of the Center for Civic Media at MIT.

About Automating Inequality

The State of Indiana denies one million applications for healthcare, food stamps, 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 a 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.

Praise

"This is the single most important book about technology you will read this year. Today, everyone is worrying about the Internet’s impact on democracy, but Eubanks shows that the problems facing us run much deeper than “fake news”―automated systems entrench social and economic inequality by design and undermine private and public welfare. Eubanks dives into history and reports from the trenches, helping us better understand the political and digital forces we are up against so we can effectively fight back." ―Astra Taylor, author of The People's Platform: Taking Back Power and Culture in the Digital Age

"Income inequality relies on the lie of the neutrality of efficiency over the value of our common humanity. Automating Inequality exposes the deadly consequences of this plan and suggests another path. That Virginia Eubanks is our guide―a person so capable, ethical, and whipsmart―is a rare combination indeed." ―Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, author of Random Family

"This book is downright scary―but with its striking research and moving, indelible portraits of life in the 'digital poorhouse,' you will emerge smarter and more empowered to demand justice." ―Naomi Klein, author of No Is Not Enough and This Changes Everything

Ethan Zuckerman
Ethan Zuckerman

Ethan Zuckerman

Ethan Zuckerman is director of the Center for Civic Media at MIT, and an Associate Professor of the Practice at the MIT Media Lab. His research focuses on the use of media as a tool for social change, the role of technology in international development, and the use of new media technologies by activists. He is the author of Rewire: Digital Cosmopolitans in the Age of Connection. He is also the co-founder of global blogging community Global Voices, and works with social change nonprofit organizations around the world. Zuckerman is an alumnus of the Berkman Center at Harvard, Geekcorps, and Tripod.

Virginia Eubanks
Virginia Eubanks

Virginia Eubanks

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. For two decades, Eubanks has worked in community technology and economic justice movements. Today, she is a founding member of the Our Data Bodies Project and a Fellow at New America. She lives in Troy, NY.

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes

As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.

Unable to attend a Harvard Book Store author event? You can still pre-order a signed book by one of our visiting authors.

While we can't guarantee fulfillment of a signed book pre-order, our authors are almost always able to sign extra books to fulfill such orders.

Ordering a signed book on harvard.com:

  • Add the book to your shopping cart and then click Checkout.
  • Specify in Order Comments that you want a signed copy of the book.
  • Please note: online orders for signed copies must be placed at least one business day before the event. If you are ordering the day of, please call us instead.

Ordering a signed book by phone:

  • Call us at (617) 661-1515 and one of our booksellers will take your order. Specify you'd like a signed copy.
  • If you are requesting a personalized inscription and/or requesting your book be shipped, we'll need to take down credit card information. If you are planning to pick up the signed book in the store, you can pay on pick-up.

FAQ:

Can I request a personalized inscription?
Unless otherwise noted, we are happy to take requests for the author to sign your book to a specific person, but we can't guarantee it. If you do get a personalized inscription, the book will be non-returnable. We will require credit card information when you place the order.

Do signed books cost more?
There is no extra fee for a signed book!

Do I have to pick it up in the store, or can you deliver my signed book?
As with all web or phone orders, we can hold your book for in-store pickup, or ship it anywhere in the country.

I am planning to attend an author event. Do I need to pre-order a book?
No need. We'll be selling books at the event, and nearly all of our events include a signing at the end of the talk.

More questions? Give us a call!

Co-Sponsored by Mass Humanities

Mass Humanities

Mass Humanities conducts and supports programs that use history, literature, philosophy, and the other humanities disciplines to enhance and improve civic life in Massachusetts. Learn more at masshumanities.org.

Event Co-Sponsor(s)

This event is co-sponsored by Harvard Kennedy School's digitalHKS and by the MIT Center for Civic Media

Purchase the Book
Featured event books will be for sale at the event for 20% off. Thank you for supporting this author series with your purchases.
General Info
(617) 661-1515
info@harvard.com

Media Inquiries
mediainquiries@harvard.com

Accessibility Inquiries
access@harvard.com

Subscribe

Author event updates +
book recommendations.
In your inbox, once a week.

Learn More »

Shipping & Delivery

Shipping rates
and options, locally
and throughout
the U.S.

Learn More »

Signed First Edition Club

A unique way for readers to create a wealth of great books—Get a membership for yourself or for a gift!

Learn More »