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The undercurrents of the future. A publication from Medium about technology and people.

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From critically acclaimed live performances of The Lion King to Beat Battle rooms where 21 Savage, Wiz Khalifa, and Drake judged work from fledgling producers, Clubhouse owes its “unicorn” status and social clout to its Black users, Keith Nelson Jr writes in LEVEL.

“For Black celebrities who are often used for the clout of their popularity and rarely the nuance of their personality, Clubhouse offered a rare gift: the power to choose who to engage with, and about what,” Nelson writes.

But now the platform has a choice to make. Will it recognize how important Black users are to its…


Big Technology

The tech industry can sideline the press. But should it?

Zappos founder Tony Hsieh. Photo: FilmMagic/Getty Images

Over Thanksgiving break, a spectacle developed over a forthcoming New York Times story about Coinbase. News of the story first appeared on Coinbase’s blog, where the company posted an email to employees warning of an impending negative article. “The story,” it said, “will allege that several Black employees had negative experiences at Coinbase over the last few years.”

Soon after Coinbase’s post went up, a chorus of tech insiders implored their peers to cut off the press, and tell their stories themselves. “Build your own media arm, hire an [editor-in-chief], and go direct,” Palantir co-founder Joe Lonsdale tweeted. “The quality…


‘Your life gets worse when you start advocating for underrepresented people’

Photo: Kimberly White/Stringer/Getty Images

Timnit Gebru, one of Google’s most prominent researchers on ethics and computer vision, says she was fired this week after sending an email to Google Brain Women and Allies, an internal resource group at the company.

The email alludes to Google censoring one of Gebru’s research papers without talking to her about it, as well as the poor treatment of those who advocate for underrepresented people at the company. The email was published in full on the outlet Platformer.

After sending the email, Gebru had an exchange with managers and privately threatened to quit unless certain undisclosed conditions were met…


A scientist warns that bias in facial recognition software could lead to false arrests, lost job opportunities

Ainissa Ramirez says she’s seen Black and dark-skinned colleagues disappear into their virtual backgrounds on Zoom calls a few times this year. And she isn’t the only one.

“I have heard reports that Black people are fading into their Zoom backgrounds because supposedly the algorithms are not able to detect faces of dark complexions well,” Ramirez, PhD, former professor of mechanical engineering at Yale University, tells OneZero.

In late September, a PhD student in Canada tweeted about a Black professor whose head kept getting removed every time they tried to use a virtual background. The tweet went viral, with countless…


A strain of science fiction called visionary fiction empowers activists, artists, and organizers to seed a better future

Photo illustration source: Yevhenii Dubinko/Getty Images

Science fiction is still regarded as the province of space opera and high technologies run amok — but at its best, it shines a light on the problems and possibilities of our world as it is. Visionary fiction, a practice developed by Walidah Imarisha, author and editor of Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction Stories from Social Justice Movements, goes a step further, and actively asks practitioners to build better futures from the ground up. (We’re also publishing Octavia Butler’s Bloodchild, a prime example and inspiration for the form, in its entirety.) Given the rise of the police abolition movement and the…


Big Technology

‘Of course it’s performative, but you know what? It’s a better world if brands feel they have to be performative’

Zeynep Tufekci
Zeynep Tufekci
Photo illustration, image courtesy of Zeynep Tufekci.

OneZero is partnering with Big Technology, a newsletter and podcast by Alex Kantrowitz, to bring readers exclusive access to interviews with notable figures in and around the tech industry.

This week, Kantrowitz sits down with writer and researcher Zeynep Tufekci to discuss the evolution of social media-driven movements, from Gezi Park in Istanbul to Black Lives Matter today. This writeup of their discussion has been edited for length and clarity.

To subscribe to the podcast and hear the interview for yourself, you can check it out on iTunes, Spotify, and Overcast.

In 2013, writer and researcher Zeynep Tufekci and I…


New research reveals a troubling correlation between lead exposure and incarceration

Kaelynn Lott, a resident at the West Calumet Housing Complex who tested positive for lead poisoning dances with her brother.
Kaelynn Lott, a resident at the West Calumet Housing Complex who tested positive for lead poisoning dances with her brother.
Kaelynn Lott, a resident at the West Calumet Housing Complex who tested positive for lead poisoning dances with her brother Kash Lott on September 4, 2016 in East Chicago, Indiana. Photo: Joshua Lott/Stringer/Getty Images

This is The Color of Climate, a weekly column from OneZero exploring how climate change and other environmental issues uniquely impact the future of communities of color.

Remember the water crisis in Flint, Michigan? Even though it began in 2014, there are still families there who bathe their children in bottled water warmed on the stove because the tap water remains contaminated by lead. And the majority of people in Flint who have been affected by lead exposure are Black.

Flint’s residents aren’t alone. Several other American cities with large Black populations have experienced widespread problems with lead exposure because…


Leslie Miley, Safiya Noble, and other Black tech thinkers on how to build a more equal industry

Photo source: Steve Proehl/adamkaz/Getty Images

In January, Detroit police came to the home of a Black man named Robert Williams and arrested him on his front lawn in front of his wife and two young daughters, then locked him in a filthy cell for 30 hours, according to a lawsuit that the ACLU filed this week. It turned out to be a case of mistaken identity, the suit alleges, based on a faulty match in a face recognition system.

The case is just one maddening example of how technologies developed by a mostly white and Asian workforce in Silicon Valley and Seattle can end up…


‘Criminality cannot be predicted. Full stop.’

Photo: NurPhoto/Getty Images

More than 500 experts on artificial intelligence, technology, and sociology have signed a letter addressed to a major academic publisher asking to halt the publication of any research that uses machine learning to predict whether someone might commit a crime.

The letter was written in response to a May 5 press release from Harrisburg University in Pennsylvania, which stated that two professors and a PhD student had created software that could predict whether someone was likely to commit a crime based on nothing more than a picture of their face. …


What my saliva doesn’t say about me

My ancestry breakdown.

I have never identified as white. In my family, being called white is the ultimate insult. I’ve heard the phrases “you’re acting white” and “that’s some white people shit” many times, and the reason it’s difficult to hear is because it denies my Latinidad, it denies my Blackness, my Indigenousness, and it denies who I feel that I truly am. The idea behind it is that if you speak like a white person or do things that white people do, then you are shirking all of your other identities and turning your back on your culture. …

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