When Simone Browne wrote her book Dark Matters: On the Surveillance of Blackness in 2015, her goal was to position the invention of contemporary surveillance technologies “as not being outside of that of the social and historical formation of slavery.” Browne’s book helped inform our next episode of the Get WIRED podcast: Senior writer Sidney Fussell recently spoke to Brown for a WIRED interview about surveillance in the wake of the George Floyd protests.
In this episode, Sidney traces racialized surveillance tech to its origins, as far back as slavery and early prison designs. He draws parallels between the intentional, all-seeing design of the panopticon and the omni-present cameras that surround us today. He takes us through the story of Robert Williams—a Black man who was recently misidentified as a criminal suspect due to faulty facial recognition—and explains how these kinds of systems become so flawed in the first place.
We also talk about the potential benefits of surveillance technology and whether it can be designed for good. The episode raises the questions technologists should be asking as they build new software; the real lesson is that systems carry out the biases of the people who build them.
How to Listen
More Great WIRED Stories
- How Taiwan’s unlikely digital minister hacked the pandemic
- Tips for staying productive when the world is on fire
- My glitchy, glorious day at a conference for virtual beings
- Dystopia isn’t sci-fi—for me, it’s the American reality
- DoNotPay unsubscribes you from spam—and tries to get you paid
- 👁 Prepare for AI to produce less wizardry. Plus: Get the latest AI news
- 🎙️ Listen to Get WIRED, our new podcast about how the future is realized. Catch the latest episodes and subscribe to the 📩 newsletter to keep up with all our shows
- ✨ Optimize your home life with our Gear team’s best picks, from robot vacuums to affordable mattresses to smart speakers