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Author Hits Detroit to Discuss Dangers of Automating Public Assistance

Excerpts from Xconomy article written by Sarah Schmid Stevenson:

“There are few life events more stressful than suddenly losing a job. One of the safety net measures in place for displaced workers is unemployment insurance: reoccurring, state-administered benefit checks that eligible workers receive for a few months while trying to get back on their feet.

Virginia Eubanks, author of Automating Inequality: How High-Tech Tools Profile, Police, and Punish the Poor and an associate professor of political science at University of Albany, SUNY. Eubanks will be in Detroit tomorrow as part of a panel discussion sponsored by the Knight Foundation Fund and The Heat and Warmth Fund (THAW).

In her book, Eubanks examines three real-world cases in which automation went awry: the city of Los Angeles’s use of an algorithm to prioritize which homeless residents would get housing, a Pittsburgh child welfare agency’s attempt to predict which children might be potential victims of abuse via statistical model, and the state of Indiana’s switch to an automated system to determine who’s eligible for cash, medical, and food assistance.

Eubanks will take part in a panel discussion titled “No Computer. No Assistance? Is Michigan Turning the Lights Off on the Poor?” from 5-7 p.m. at the Bethel Transformation Community Center in Detroit. The event is free and open to the public.”