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ProPublica, WNYC Present 'Breaking the Black Box' Event on Algorithms, Society and You

ProPublica teams up with WNYC for a live event on Jan. 31 about what lies behind the algorithms used across all sectors of society – and what happens when they go wrong. Moderated by Note to Self host Manoush Zomorodi, the discussion will feature researchers, entrepreneurs and authors in a deep dive into the ways that machines are making decisions about our lives.

The event, “Breaking the Black Box: How Algorithms Make Decisions About You,” includes speakers:


  • Tuesday, Jan. 31 | 7:00 – 8:15 p.m.
  • The Greene Space, 4 Charlton Street, New York, NY (corner of Varick Street)
  • Tickets: $15, available here

Algorithms sift through information to determine everything from the curated news we read, the prices we pay for goods and services, and even which people are most compatible for us to date. Yet all too often, we don’t know how, exactly, machines are making these decisions. The formulas at work are a “black box” – it’s impossible for outsiders to know what’s going inside them. A recent ProPublica series explored how algorithms sometimes get it wrong, from how Facebook mines our personal data to categorize us, to how machines can unintentionally produce racial biases.

As machines increasingly make decisions for humans, it’s important to understand the algorithms that produce their judgments. So what can we do about it?

Join us as we discuss how to prevent your personal data from being collected, the hidden biases in algorithms that can cause them to discriminate, and ways we can peek inside black boxes and hold actual people accountable. The interactive event will also kick off Note to Self’s forthcoming project: “The Privacy Paradox,” a five-part podcast and audience engagement series designed to take the mystery out of digital privacy.

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