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Artificial intelligence (AI) and advanced digital technologies are impacting every facet of modern life: how people engage with one another online, how governments interact with citizens, how our workplaces and jobs evolve. In particular, the Covid-19 pandemic has illuminated how technology’s influence can present both immense opportunities and immediate threats to equity and public health. Algorithm-driven tools have been used to guide allocation of precious healthcare resources. Algorithm-shaped social media feeds, and the power and financial incentives of the technology companies that create them, shape how health misinformation spreads online. Through our partnership and generous grant from the Blue Shield of California Foundation, our technology & belonging project is in pursuit of an inclusive, just and equitable society, all necessary components of a healthy democracy and healthy communities.

Pre-dating the pandemic, public debates on the development and deployment of AI have become more mainstream as technology’s impacts on society become more visible, far-reaching, and urgent. Once considered a niche realm of technologists and scientists asking questions about a distant future, more of the conversation is now driven by social scientists, grassroots organizations, journalists, and dozens of research institutes and networks of advocates oriented toward concerns of not just fairness, but equity and justice.

Our evolving work focuses on this expanding sphere of influence and power for those impacted by technology: from worker-organizers fighting back in the gig economy that tech giants created to abolitionists shaping our understanding of technology’s role in entrenching the policing and surveillance of the most marginalized. This focus on narrative and power-building endeavors builds on the Institute’s work advancing interdisciplinary scholarship and supporting community-led organizing. Through our work on technology & belonging, the Othering & Belonging Institute is researching advanced technologies' promise and threat to move our world towards a place where all belong. We examine how technologies, the corporations that make money off of them, and governments that regulate and fund tech research & development shape our public, private, and marginalized spaces.