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AI & Our Future World

The second day of Internet Librarian was kicked off by a talk from Meredith Broussard, Associate Professor, Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute, New York University. She is also the author of Artificial Unintelligence: How Computers Misunderstand the World: How Computer Misunderstand the World. She began by telling us that AI is “just math.” It’s computational statistics with numerous subfields, the prominent being machine learning.

Technochauvinism seems endemic to math and computer science, since the founders and luminaries of the discipline were well-educated white males. It’s technochauvinism that fuels the belief that computers are superior to humans. Since women and people of color are not well represented in math or computer science, bias occurs. Who knew that a soap dispenser could be racist? Positive asymmetry stems from the idea that if it works for me it must work for everybody. Hence the soap dispenser that only works on light-colored skin. It’s a good example of why we need more diverse workforce. She thinks we should assume that discrimination is the default in all automated systems.

Furthermore, we should work to avoid tech Columbusing, which she defined as claiming to discover something that is, in fact, an existing field of study that has been producing vibrant, engaged research for decades. Needed is  collaboration between AI and social scientists.

Moving to the issue of preservation, something dear to hearts of librarians, she decried the fact that early stuff on the internet is gone, even articles she herself wrote. We need to make sure we can read today’s news on tomorrow’s computers since we already can’t get yesterday’s news on today’s computers.  The internet is not forever.

One reason for disappearing news is how content management systems work, how the pipes are hooked up. Adding to the problem is the contracts between companies like LexisNexis and EBSCO and the news organizations, which were signed decades ago and did not anticipate today’s technology. Plus, we no longer have very many news librarians and no one maintains the morgue. Information created “digital first,” which is often cutting edge news, is disappearing. It would be nice if the Internet Archive could preserve everything but it can’t. Archiving digital content is a “human in the loop” process.

Broussard wants us to move to the world as it should be.



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