Artificial unintelligence: How computers misunderstand the world

Apr. 25, 2018, 3:30 to 4:20 p.m. —Physics/Astronomy Auditorium, room A102

Meredith BroussardAssistant Professor, Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute of New York University


Our collective enthusiasm for applying computer technology to every aspect of life has resulted in a tremendous number of poorly designed systems. We are so eager to do everything digitally — hiring, driving, paying bills, even choosing romantic partners — that we have stopped asking hard questions about whether our technological choices are moving us toward a better world.

In this talk, Meredith Broussard, a data journalism professor at NYU, explores social issues like the rise of disinformation, the Facebook/Cambridge Analytica scandal, autonomous car deaths, and online harassment through a computational lens. Broussard argues that these social ills can be understood as arising from a kind of bias called technochauvinism that sees computational solutions as superior to all others.

In her new book, Artificial Unintelligence, she suggests that if we interrogate the assumption that computers are always better than people, and acknowledge the fundamental limits of what we can do with technology, we can make better choices about what we should do with it to make the world better for everyone.


A photo of Meredith BroussardData journalist Meredith Broussard is an assistant professor at the Arthur L. Carter Journalism Institute of New York University, an affiliate faculty member at the Moore-Sloan Data Science Environment at the NYU Center for Data Science, and a 2019 fellow at the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute. Her latest book is Artificial Unintelligence: How Computers Misunderstand the World.

Broussard’s academic research focuses on artificial intelligence in investigative reporting, with a particular interest in using data analysis for social good. She is also interested in reproducible research issues and is developing methods for preserving innovative digital journalism projects in scholarly archives so that we can read today’s news on tomorrow’s computers.

A former features editor at the Philadelphia Inquirer and fellow at the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia Journalism School, she has also worked as a software developer at AT&T Bell Labs and the MIT Media Lab. She holds a BA from Harvard University and an MFA from Columbia University. Follow her on Twitter @merbroussard or contact her via