Meredith Broussard is a data journalist, developer, and professor with a focus on artificial intelligence and investigative reporting. A wonder to the tech world, her priority appears to be exploring the limits of technology, what is possible, with a human-centered perspective. She is author of the book Artificial Unintelligence: How Computers Misunderstand the World, a cry for more intuitive and genuinely people-focused technology in a world fraught with poorly designed systems.
In her book, Broussard discusses technochauvinism in depth. Technochauvinism, in the simplest of terms, is the belief that technology is always the solution. Broussard argues that technology cannot be the solution if the underlying social problems are not first addressed, especially with the consideration that computers are often biased and especially knowing that technology is created by those with the resources and power to do so. It is true that computers can’t always get things right, and therefore, as Broussard seems to suggest, we can’t assume computers will get things right when human variables are introduced into the mix. Additionally, the digital world isn’t a place separate from people; we exist in and interact with the digital on a daily basis.
The chapter we read connects strongly to the discussions that we had arguing in favor of digital studies programs, digital literacy, and public interest technology courses. As many of the current technology programs (such as computer science) stand, the focus is on the science behind the technology we use and how that learning can be applied to improving and utilizing technology. Where Broussard’s ideas interject is in her focus on the human aspects, how technology can benefit us and where those limits lie.
The goal of digital studies is to look at how the digital intersects with all other parts of our lives as powers increasingly push digital alternatives in our direction. Consideration needs to be made to the possible negative impacts of technologies designed to solve problems. The digital doesn’t exist independently of the “real world.” The real world is complex and so the technologies designed to improve the real world need complex designs, complex to the level we aren’t necessarily able to achieve at this point. Digital studies, as a minor, acknowledges the permeance of technology and the digital world, and seeks to inform us as students as so to avoid assuming technology has all the answers to our problems. Once we understand how different technologies function within our very complex human systems and cultures, we can strive to improve those technologies as much as the limit will allow us.