Remember how Zuboff insisted that surveillance capitalism wasn’t ideological?
She was completely wrong.
An author I’m reading (full review will be available once I finish the book) conducted a curious experiment.
He entered the words “European art” into Google images. And a strange thing happened. The search returned a large number of paintings depicting black people. European art depicting black people did exist historically. But it was nowhere near half of all European paintings, like the search shows.
Then he entered the words “white couples.” Most of the images showed interracial or black couples. Try it yourself. It’s definitely an experience.
Then he searched for “straight couples.” The author is gay, so he was curious. You can guess what came up. Hint: not only or even mostly straight couples.
He decided to try this experiment in different languages. And a curious thing happened. The answers were the most skewed in English-language searches. They were better in Western European languages. But when he tried the same searches in Turkish, the results were suddenly normal. White couples were white. Straight people were straight. European art was exactly what we think it is. I tried the experiment in Russian, and European art came up as not nearly as… erm, diverse as in the English search. Actually, it wasn’t diverse at all. The Spanish search returned more diversity than the Russian but a lot LOT less than the English search.
It’s very obvious that the search results are manipulated before you can see them. Or maybe there’s a totally benign explanation for why these searches look like a fantasy of the Chief Diversity officer at Reed College. It might be a total coincidence that “the political atmosphere in Silicon Valley is several degrees to the left of a liberal arts college. Social justice activism is assumed – correctly – to be the default setting for all employees in the major companies and most of them, including Google, put applicants through tests to weed out anyone with the wrong ideological inclinations. Those who have gone through these tests recount that there are multiple questions on issues to do with diversity – sexual, racial and cultural – and that answering these questions ‘correctly’ is a prerequisite for getting a job.”
There might be no connection at all and it’s all an innocent glitch.
Or maybe it isn’t.