While the precise accumulation of data has established many critical enterprises, it also possesses a negative side like many things in life. In today’s society, companies love data, whether it be to show trends or illustrate their sales. Individuals believe that the astute professionals operating powerful companies like Apple and Lyft have some hidden intelligence; with society even providing them with their personal information, uncomfortably, yet ultimately with little reluctance. Society is enticed by the supposed trailblazers looking to solicit the potential of data in order to transform sectors of society like health care and education. In her novel, Automating Inequality, Virginia Eubanks disagrees with the assumption that technology and the information it provides enables a life full of leisure that is more accessible, painless and greatly convenient. For the impoverished, she contends bureaucratic data and its exploitation established a new reign of vigilance, discrimination, and maltreatment, which she eloquently refers to as the “digital poorhouse.”
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While technology is often praised by investigators and governmental workers as a way to distribute their services to the poor in a thorough manner, Eubanks illustrates that more often than not, the disparity worsens. The poor are not in need of what the data provides, rather they are in dire need of greater resources. Similar to the 19th-century poorhouse, she disputes, the technologically new ones enables the government to “manage the individual poor in order to escape our shared responsibility for eradicating poverty,” through their use of surveys.
Like contention over the freedom of speech, policies of data mining for research are becoming popular to the liberals. For some, intelligence remains a basic necessity. Research from every field exists as a way for better understanding the community and society as a whole. But there is an additional, more Foucauldian mindset: Where does the strain of surveillance occur? What collusion do researchers possess with the government who supplies the data? The objectivity of what counts as favorable outcome versus an unfavorable outcome in a given study remains highly contentious. Emphasis on certain data results in the loss of excluding or devaluing others.
In Los Angeles, Eubanks interviews Gary Boatwright, an individual who processed mortgages until the collapse of the industry. She learned that the city uses a survey and its data to resolve providing the houses to the homeless individuals. It aids them in ordering who they believe are the hardest cases from the easiest. Boatwright, unemployed and having no addictions, falls under the easiest category and remains unhoused.
Technology allows the government to hassle and abuse the poor, but Eubanks competently illustrates that all the poor need is assistance. That help may be more expensive than technology, momentarily, but as governments provide aid in forms of housing, cash and health, all of the evils of the destitute would render useless.
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