Newsletter #176: The Great Vaccine Algorithm Debacle

Hello Recompilers,

For updates about the Portland protests, Audrey is still maintaining a blog about what’s going on there.


Two of the most anxiety-inducing components of modern life–the pandemic and algorithms with real-world consequences–interacted this week, when Standford Medical Center used software to determine whom among their staff to prioritize for Covid vaccination. The AI prioritized age over exposure risk and remote workers found themselves at the front of the line while frontline workers were not. This is, of course, not the computer’s fault. It’s a design flaw. The kind we need to be far more aware of.

NYC decided it was a better idea to spend millions of dollars on software that catches plagiarism than to continue to hire teachers. So… people who write algorithms should get paid but not professional educators. I’m sure nothing bad will come of that.

Plus, if your curious how the algorithms that run world decided that everyone needed to see assless pajamas this week, here’s a breakdown of how that happened.


Live Like the World is Dying: Walidah Imarisha on Envisioning the Future
On the latest episode of my podcast, I talk with science fiction author, activist, historian, and teacher Walidah Imarisha about how vital it is that we realize we have a future and that we work towards it.

Talk of the Week:

This talk is part of our “Favorite Talks” YouTube Playlist. Check it out and subscribe! 

How I’m Fighting Bias in Algorithms

Joy Buolamwini presents a TED talk about her work fighting against the coded gaze.


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This newsletter compiled by Margaret Killjoy (@magpiekilljoy). Margaret is an author, activist, and musician based in Appalachia. Her most recent book series is the Danielle Cain novella series, which starts with The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion.

Image by Lisa Ferdinando (CC BY 2.0)