Broussard — Artificial Unintelligence Book Review

By Carson Kunnen


Photo by Luca Bravo on Unsplash

Meredith Broussard is a data journalism professor at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute at New York University. More recently, her career has been dedicated to exploring the role of artificial intelligence in Journalism. Her most recent book, released in 2017 titled Artificial Unintelligence: How Computers Misunderstand the World has received positive reviews from several news outlets and publishers, and this is the text which I am analyzing within this post.

“It’s time to stop rushing blindly into the digital future and start making better, more thoughtful decisions about when and why to use technology”

The primary goal of Broussard’s book is to bring awareness to the “unintelligence” of technology. She advocates for a skeptical approach to the idea that “technology solves everything”. This idea, Broussard coins as Technochauvinism.

“Ultimately, everything we do with computers comes down to math, and there are fundamental limits to what we can and should do with it”

Additionally, Broussard adds that there are limits to the extent to which we should use technology to serve us in our everyday lives. Personally, I have seen this in my own life. I tend to take the “technology fixes all” approach, of which I am starting to re-think while analyzing this piece. I use technology for everything: paying at a grocery store, looking up cute date ideas, researching restaurant reviews, playing chess, browsing content on social media, communicating with others, improving my digital skills, and much more. Ultimately, it seems that I put too much trust in the multiple computers I use on a daily basis. I put too much trust in a series of math equations.

“Technochauvinism is the belief that tech is always the solution”

Within the Digital Studies minor, I have been made aware of these issues, especially in DS 350 (Social Media in Culture) class. Within this class, we talked about a technologically deterministic vs humanistic approach to technology. On one hand, a technologically deterministic approach focuses on how technology shapes how we interact online. On the other hand, a humanistic approach focuses on how humans shape how we interact online. These principals have shaped how I view technology and can be related to the first chapter of Broussard’s book.

There has never been, nor will there ever be, a technological innovation that moves us away from the essential problems of human nature

Broussard focuses on the ethical, moral, and social implications of technology in society. This is related to the article we were required to read for class on Wednesday: Why Universities Need Public Interest Technology Courses in which the author expanded upon the idea of “public interest technologies”.

Narrow AI is what we have. It’s the difference between dreams (General AI) and reality.

A huge goal of the Digital Studies minor is ethics and digital culture. Broussard brings up solid points advocating for a skeptical look at technology, by which we can create systems that actually work and provide necessary services for us.