The idea of rejecting or refusing technology runs against the grain of the celebrated role tech has generally occupied in the West, wedded closely to the notion of progress itself (Marx 1997). By this cultural logic, refusal is cast as unwise because it is anti-innovation or it is cast as impossible because technological developments are presumed to be inevitable. And yet, this view is contradicted in practice. Research directions narrow the pathways of tech development through disciplinary logics, market possibilities, and life experience. In industry, projects are frequently cancelled when they cannot generate a profit. This financial logic is a kind of value that motivates refusal. What other values currently guide refusal or could in the future? What forms of justification are useful? What practices make refusal possible? At this conference we lean into the idea that sometimes making a more just and equitable society means refusing certain technologies or certain applications of technology.
- Dates: Oct. 14 - 16th, 2020
- Location: Remote
In June of 2018, the Algorithmic Fairness and Opacity Working Group (AFOG) held a summer workshop with the theme “Algorithms are Opaque and Unfair: Now What?.” The event was organized by Berkeley I School Professors (and AFOG co-directors) Jenna Burrell and Deirdre Mulligan and postdoc Daniel Kluttz, and Allison Woodruff and Jen Gennai from Google. Our working group is generously sponsored by Google Trust and Safety and hosted at the UC Berkeley School of Information.
Inspired by questions that came up at our biweekly working group meetings during the 2017-2018 academic year, we organized four panels for the workshop. The panel topics raised issues that we felt required deeper consideration and debate. To make progress we brought together a diverse, interdisciplinary group of experts from academia, industry, and civil society in a workshop-style environment. In panel discussions, we considered potential ways of acting on algorithmic (un)fairness and opacity. We sought to consider the fullest possible range of ‘solutions,’ including technical implementations (algorithms, user-interface designs), law and policy, standard-setting, incentive programs, new organizational processes, labor organizing, and direct action.