More than a Glitch
Confronting Race, Gender, and Ability Bias in Tech
248 pp., 6 x 9 in, 9 b&w illus.
- Published: March 14, 2023
- Publisher: The MIT Press
- Published: March 14, 2023
- Publisher: The MIT Press
When technology reinforces inequality, it's not just a glitch—it's a signal that we need to redesign our systems to create a more equitable world.
The word “glitch” implies an incidental error, as easy to patch up as it is to identify. But what if racism, sexism, and ableism aren't just bugs in mostly functional machinery—what if they're coded into the system itself? In the vein of heavy hitters such as Safiya Umoja Noble, Cathy O'Neil, and Ruha Benjamin, Meredith Broussard demonstrates in More Than a Glitch how neutrality in tech is a myth and why algorithms need to be held accountable.
Broussard, a data scientist and one of the few Black female researchers in artificial intelligence, masterfully synthesizes concepts from computer science and sociology. She explores a range of examples: from facial recognition technology trained only to recognize lighter skin tones, to mortgage-approval algorithms that encourage discriminatory lending, to the dangerous feedback loops that arise when medical diagnostic algorithms are trained on insufficiently diverse data. Even when such technologies are designed with good intentions, Broussard shows, fallible humans develop programs that can result in devastating consequences.
Broussard argues that the solution isn't to make omnipresent tech more inclusive, but to root out the algorithms that target certain demographics as “other” to begin with. With sweeping implications for fields ranging from jurisprudence to medicine, the ground-breaking insights of More Than a Glitch are essential reading for anyone invested in building a more equitable future.
“With unmatched clarity and galvanizing insight, Meredith Broussard demystifies the mathematical underpinnings of AI and slays the magical mythos of Big Tech like no other! Everyone who cares about the future of tech and society should read this book yesterday.”
Ruha Benjamin, author of Race after Technology and Viral Justice
“With the clarity that few technology scholars can muster, More than Glitch powerfully demonstrates why we must understand culture - not just computation - if we are to imagine and design a future that reaches beyond fairness to build equity and justice into our technological systems.”
Charlton McIlwain, Professor, NYU; author of Black Software: The Internet & Racial Justice, From the Afronet to Black Lives Matter
“From the case of the racist soap dispenser to the assistive listening technology that wasn't, More than a Glitch exposes and analyzes the way unreflective use of tech can reinforce the very human biases it claims to be immune to.”
Jordan Ellenberg, Professor of Mathematics, University of Wisconsin-Madison; author of How Not To Be Wrong and Shape
“Broussard is a patient, empathetic, and witty tour guide, ushering the reader through multiple deep-dive journalistic and personal endeavors that are alternately terrifying and heartwarming, enraging and inspiring. She deftly reframes the question of how to build AI equitably from a technical issue to a human one.”
Cathy O'Neil, author of The Shame Machine and Weapons of Math Destruction
"Why you should read it: You're a tech leader who understands that there is always bias in modern technologies – you recognize the fallibility of humans – but you want to learn about potential solutions to this problem. Explore the frameworks that target specific demographics as “other” in the first place. This is essential reading for anyone invested in building a more equitable future."
The Enterprisers Project
"Broussard brings her perspective as a multiracial woman, data journalist, and computer scientist to an eye-opening critique of racism, sexism, and ableism in technology. She decries technochauvinism, which she defines as 'a kind of bias that considers computational solutions to be superior to all other solutions'...An informed analysis of one of the insidious elements of technology."
"Telling the stories of individuals from marginalized communities who have been wronged by technology, the author shows how design and conceptual failures produce unfair outcomes...The stories enrage and drive home the cost of the failures and prejudices built into ostensibly cutting-edge programs. This sobering warning about the dangers of technology alarms and unsettles.”
"With her latest book, Meredith Broussard picks up on the threads of Safiya Noble and Ruha Benjamin as she demonstrates how technology reinforces injustice through its ubiquitous algorithms and questionable human interactions."
"Meredith Broussard is unusually well placed to dissect the ongoing hype around AI. She's a data scientist and associate professor at New York University, and she's been one of the leading researchers in the field of algorithmic bias for years. And though her own work leaves her buried in math problems, she's spent the last few years thinking about problems that mathematics can't solve. Her reflections have made their way into a new book about the future of AI. In More than a Glitch, Broussard argues that we are consistently too eager to apply artificial intelligence to social problems in inappropriate and damaging ways. Her central claim is that using technical tools to address social problems without considering race, gender, and ability can cause immense harm."
The MIT Technology Review
"People like to think of technology as a neutral force, but the truth is that racism, sexism, and ableism are often coded right into the tech systems we use every day (like how facial recognition technology is primed to work on lighter skin, or how mortgage-approval algorithms lead to discriminatory lending). It's an important topic in an increasingly tech-reliant world, and More Than a Glitch is a great place to start learning about it."
"Broussard's book is distinguished by at least two elements: its extraordinarily expansive scope on the one hand, and its no-nonsense approach to both the problem and its solutions on the other...It is undeniably hard not to be overwhelmed by the seemingly unstoppable course of technological development in the contemporary world, especially around AI and everything it appears poised to reinvent. But cynicism can also be a hiding place for privilege, and those who say despairingly that nothing can be done are often those who stand to benefit most from nothing being done."
"As machine learning capabilities only continue to improve, finding more ethical – and therefore more equitable – solutions to programming is an increasing priority for tech companies and developers. Broussard's book calls to mind the work of Anna Jean-Baptise, and points to an overall cultural focus on equity and inclusivity.”
"When technology reinforces inequality, it's not just a glitch—it's a signal that we need to redesign our systems to create a more equitable world."
The Next Big Idea Club