Artificial Whiteness

Politics and Ideology in Artificial Intelligence

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Pub Date 03 Nov 2020 | Archive Date 10 Feb 2021

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Dramatic statements about the promise and peril of artificial intelligence for humanity abound, as an industry of experts claims that AI is poised to reshape nearly every sphere of life. Who profits from the idea that the age of AI has arrived? Why do ideas of AI’s transformative potential keep reappearing in social and political discourse, and how are they linked to broader political agendas?

Yarden Katz reveals the ideology embedded in the concept of artificial intelligence, contending that it both serves and mimics the logic of white supremacy. He demonstrates that understandings of AI, as a field and a technology, have shifted dramatically over time based on the needs of its funders and the professional class that formed around it. From its origins in the Cold War military-industrial complex through its present-day Silicon Valley proselytizers and eager policy analysts, AI has never been simply a technical project enabled by larger data and better computing. Drawing on intimate familiarity with the field and its practices, Katz instead asks us to see how AI reinforces models of knowledge that assume white male superiority and an imperialist worldview. Only by seeing the connection between artificial intelligence and whiteness can we prioritize alternatives to the conception of AI as an all-encompassing technological force.

Bringing together theories of whiteness and race in the humanities and social sciences with a deep understanding of the history and practice of science and computing, Artificial Whiteness is an incisive, urgent critique of the uses of AI as a political tool to uphold social hierarchies.


Yarden Katz is a fellow in the Department of Systems Biology at Harvard Medical School. He received his PhD in brain and cognitive sciences from MIT in 2014.

Dramatic statements about the promise and peril of artificial intelligence for humanity abound, as an industry of experts claims that AI is poised to reshape nearly every sphere of life. Who profits...

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ISBN 9780231194914
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Featured Reviews

The book, "Artificial Whiteness," by Yarden Katz has been all over the internet with the current racial tensions in the United States. Written by someone who identifies as having grown up white, Katz helps challenge one's thoughts and beliefs about race and the definition of racism. With institutional racism garnering more notoriety, this book truly helped me see other lives in a different light. I found myself constantly processing the information found within to adjust my own beliefs.

I would never expect a person to completely change their belief system or core values based on one book, but Katz helps the reader fill in the area of our lives that most have never had to poke and prod. One concern I would have is that there are certainly those who may read this book and immediately go on the defensive. If that is you, then try to give it a chance. If you can't, that's fine, Katz presents a very heavy topic in a very challenging manner.

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As a math major, I was super intrigued by the interplay between race and artificial intelligence. Our world is becoming increasingly automated and driven by mathematical algorithms and models. We need to be hyper aware of the data we are using and it’s potential biases.

Overall, a very intellectual read so it was tough to get through at some points but it appealed to my math brain and drive for racial equality.

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technology replicates the existing structures of the world. It is not at all surprising to learn about the extent to which technology/AI benefits the groups with already a lot of privilege. I found the book interesting but a few years too late in publishing its thesis. I would have found more helpful to dedicate the book to better recommendations for how technology can avoid replicating the system it exists within

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