NLM Science, Technology, and Society Lecture – Confronting Race, Gender, & Ability Bias in Tech with Meredith Broussard


On Wednesday, March 6, 2024 at 2:00 pm ET, the National Library of Medicine (NLM) is hosting its fourth annual Lecture on Science, Technology, and Society with a talk from Meredith Broussard. What if racism, sexism, and ableism aren’t just glitches in mostly functional machinery—what if they’re coded into our technological systems? In this talk, data scientist and journalist Meredith Broussard explores why neutrality in tech is a myth and how algorithms can be held accountable. Broussard, one of the few Black female researchers in artificial intelligence, explores a range of examples: from facial recognition technology trained only to recognize lighter skin tones, to mortgage-approval algorithms that encourage discriminatory lending, to the dangerous feedback loops that arise when medical diagnostic algorithms are trained on insufficiently diverse data. Even when such technologies are designed with good intentions, Broussard shows, fallible humans develop programs that can result in devastating consequences. Broussard argues that the solution isn’t to make omnipresent tech more inclusive, but to root out the algorithms that target certain demographics as “other” to begin with. She explores practical strategies to detect when technology reinforces inequality, and offers ideas for redesigning our systems to create a more equitable world. Meredith Broussard is an associate professor at New York University. Her books include More Than a Glitch: Confronting Race, Gender, and Ability Bias in Tech, and Artificial Unintelligence: How Computers Misunderstand the World. She appears in the Emmy-nominated documentary “Coded Bias” on Netflix. The Annual NLM Lecture on Science, Technology, and Society aims to seed conversations across the library, the NIH, and the border biomedical research community as we seek to fulfill our commitment to advance biomedical discovery and human health for the benefit of all.

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