Mental health advice after another mass shooting
S1: Community reaction to another mass shooting.
S2: I don't even know how. Something like this can happen at a place that's majority elderly. Ballroom dances.
S1: I'm Jade Hindman. This is KPBS midday edition. When processing mass shootings and violence , many emotions emerge. We unpack ways to cope.
S3: I really encourage folks to allow their experiences to come up , allow whatever emotional feelings and experiences that they're having to have space to talk about that.
S1: A conversation about extremism and transgender rights after an incident in Santee. Plus , could more data collection be a good thing ? We'll explore. That's ahead on Midday Edition. A 72 year old man is suspected of killing ten people and injuring ten more in a shooting late Saturday night at a dance studio in Monterey Park near Los Angeles. The shooting took place during a celebration welcoming the Lunar New Year at a place that is popular among older Chinese immigrants who live in the community. All of the victims , including five men and five women , were in their fifties , sixties and seventies. The suspect died by suicide on Sunday morning , according to local authorities. The California Report host Saul Gonzalez has more on the community and reaction to the shooting.
S4: Monterey Park is just east of downtown Los Angeles in the San Gabriel Valley. This suburban community has long been a center of Asian American life and is home to many immigrants from China , Taiwan and other Asian countries who've turned Monterey Park into a thriving commercial and cultural center. According to the latest census figures , about 65% of the city's population is Asian. After the shooting in Monterey Park , the suspected gunman entered another dance hall in the neighboring city of Alhambra. That's where he encountered two community members. Here's Sheriff Robert Luna. And he walked in there with a firearm and some individuals wrestled the firearm away from them and that individual took off. Luna described the two community members as heroes. One of them , Brandon Shea , spoke to Good Morning America this morning.
S5: My first thought was I was going to die here. This was it.
S4: Here's Shea describing what happened when he encountered the gunman.
S5: Something came over me. I realized I needed to get the weapon away from him. I needed to take this weapon , disarm him , or else everybody would have died. Well , I went. When I got the courage , I lunged at him with both my hands. Grab the weapon. And we had to struggle. We struggled into the lobby trying to get this gun away from each other. He was hitting me across the face , bashed in the back of my head. I was trying to use my elbows to separate the gun away from him , create some distance. Finally , at one point , I was able to pull the gun away from him. Shot on the side , create some distance. Point the gun at him , intimidate him and say , Get the hell out here. I'll shoot. Get away. Go.
S4: Chase said the night was winding down at the time of the encounter. He and his family owned and operate the dance hall in Studio One. Monterey Park resident who goes by the name of Macha , says the Star Ballroom Dance studio where the shooting occurred was a gathering place for older Asian-Americans.
S2: My grandparents are involved in it. It was a Chinese and Japanese community that dance cares a lot of ballroom dancing. So it wasn't like like I think people are imagining like like a nightclub , but it's not a nightclub. It's it's like a ballroom dancing. It's more like a community center. Yeah , more like a community center. And they were just throwing , like , a small party for the Lunar New Year. And , you know , it's I don't even know how something like this can happen at a place of that's majority elderly like elderly ballroom dances.
S4: As mentioned , the shooting happened as Monterey Park was celebrating the arrival of the Lunar New Year , one of the largest such celebrations in the country. But after the shooting , public celebrations were canceled. Vendors who had set up kiosks on the streets were told they had to leave. I met te vendor Thomas Lu as he was packing up.
S2: We're packing up because they cancelled the event. I was packing up to leave early.
S2: It's just shocking how it , like , hits so close to home to have a mass shooting like in our neighborhood. Never heard of , you know , any type of shooting in the Central Valley before. So like that.
S4: And this was going to be a day of celebration. And I assume a lot of sales for you and.
S2: Definitely is definitely a day of celebration. You know , it's a day that a lot of Asians and Asian-Americans also deal to them. And for something like that to , you know , like come in in our backyard , you know , it's it's kind of a shock. You know , like it's it's like something cultural to us.
S1: The shooting in Monterey Park over the Lunar New Year weekend is serving as yet another reminder of how random acts of mass violence can be in the wake of these kinds of attacks. Feelings of fear and hopelessness are common. Joining me to talk about that and the impact mass violence has on mental health is Coco Nishi , a clinical psychologist with counseling and psychological services at SDSU. Coco , welcome to Midday Edition.
S3: Thank you so much for having me.
S3: If I were being raw , I'm still processing it this morning. But it was almost like , oh , not another attack on our community , yet another one.
S1: And Coco , you were actually very close to where all of this unfolded. Can you tell us about that ? Yeah.
S3: So I was born and raised in Torrance , and my parents live there , and so my family lives in San Diego. But we went to visit my parents for the weekend to celebrate Lunar New Year on Sunday. And in the morning I have three kids , but I have two young daughters and seven and nine. And they wanted to get their ears pierced at the mall. And so we went over to the drama mall. And on the way there was about 11:00 , and I saw several helicopters in the sky. And I didn't think much of it. I thought , oh , maybe there was a fire or something. But as we got closer , the police car started coming by. We're actually going in the same direction because it was very close to where they found the suspect. And so as we were coming out , I started getting text messages and looked on the news and heard the radio and they were sharing what had happened. And it was literally across the street from where we were. So it's a really surreal moment. Yeah.
S1: Yeah. And one thing that strikes me is that you were with your young daughters. I mean , you know , this is something that we all kind of grapple with.
S3: We didn't talk about emotions. We were taught to endure it and push through. To be honest , my first reaction was to go with what I was raised with and say , No , it's fine , don't worry about it , because that's how I was raised and I'm not being critical of that is just that's what my upbringing was. And so I had to catch myself and say , No , actually I think the news is saying that this might be the person who had hurt so many people last night , and they're kind of starting this conversation about like how they were feeling and they had a lot of questions. And so I kind of just opened that up. And as a psychologist and as a parent , it's interesting trying to navigate the two because on one hand , I didn't grow up learning how to communicate my feelings this way. And so trying to model that , trying to guide that with my own children as a psychologist is challenging , but also as a parent , just wanting to make sure that I'm emotionally supportive and give them space to process what they're going through. And we're still kind of processing it , to be honest.
S1: Right , Right. And as people process this , there are certainly anxieties that come with going out in public spaces.
S3: My daughters both expressed being scared and confused as to what happened and a little bit worried to be out in public with all these police cars and helicopters. And so I try to validate that , and I really encourage folks to allow their experiences to come up , allow whatever emotional feelings and experiences that they're having to have space to talk about that. Because I think what we tend to do in general in our community is to internalize and to kind of stay silent and not bring attention to ourselves. And so if folks are feeling anxious , if they're feeling concerned or if they're worried , I think it's important to have a space where they can have those feelings validated when their experience is heard.
S1: And after a mass shooting , a lot of people are glued to the news and social media trying to learn more about what happened.
S3: I feel as though on some level we become so inundated with it that we become desensitized. And so we hear about another mass shooting right after. And it's like , okay , this is the norm when it shouldn't be the norm. I feel that for me personally , the impact has been just that decentralization and also just the lack of compassion towards one another. We so quick to judge and make assumptions when we see a headline. And that , I think , limits our curiosity in trying to find more about the truth and just kind of go with whatever we see or whatever we hear.
S1: And as a psychologist , what do you. Recommend to people who are feeling scared and even traumatized by mass shooting events.
S3: I'm trying to find a way to move forward and I don't quite know what to do. And so maybe part of that is being honest with where you're at. I think in our society today , there's so much pressure to just move on to the next thing. There's always so much that we have to do , and I'm guilty of this where I'll jump into work or pour myself into projects and just stay busy and kind of keep myself distracted. And then I find that the stress or the trauma or the anxiety or whatever those emotions are getting , it doesn't show up in other places that I'll come to. And so it could be when I'm out at the park with my my kids and I snap at them because I am stressed about something that I didn't process. And so I really try to encourage that , especially the students that I work with , to find spaces to talk about these things , to have conversations where we can have shared experiences and be able to validate one another's emotions. Because when we don't do that , it compounds. And the stress and the trauma just perpetuates on , particularly with intergenerational trauma. That's something that we see where when it's not process , it carries on for future generations. And so it sounds so basic , but yet it's also really hard to do is just to take a step back and take some time. And you are finding that it's difficult to focus on work or go about your daily business to really take some space to call someone that you can talk to , to find a community that you feel comfortable talking with , or just spending time kind of reconnecting with yourself and others , I think is really key.
S1: You know , the timing of this shooting during the Lunar New Year , it really seems to highlight the difficulties the AAPI community has faced in recent years.
S3: I can just speak for the small circle that I've been a part of for the last day or two. But it felt very devastating. You know , my initial reaction that I shared with you was like or not another attack on the community. But then to find out that was carried out by one of our own was even more painful. And just trying to make sense of it has been really difficult. And so I think for a lot of us , you know , yesterday being the new year , it was such a celebratory occasion and so many of us had not been able to celebrate with loved ones for so for two , three years and to finally get this opportunity and to have something like this happen just felt really heartbreaking. So at the same time , though , I also felt that there was this real connection to being grateful and present and appreciative of our loved ones and to really not take for granted and to check on each other. And in some ways , it did feel like we were coming closer together. And I found myself reaching out to my community and my loved ones and my friends and , you know , checking in more so than just saying like , hey , happy woman , Or it was more like just wanting to send love and hugs and , you know , when can we see each other next , things like that. So I feel like it's it's kind of a lot of emotions mixed into one , which is why it's so important to really prioritize time , even if it's a few minutes , just to have a moment to really sit and honor your feelings and acknowledge what's going on for each of us.
S1: I've been speaking with Koko Nishi , a clinical psychologist at San Diego State University. Coco , thank you so much for sharing your experience with us and for your insight.
S3: Thank you so much for having me.
S1: You're listening to KPBS Midday edition. I'm Jade Hindman. A rally in Santee last week about the management of the YMCA locker room has brought attention back to the issue of who gets to shower where. The rally followed the comments at a Santee City Council meeting by a young woman who said she felt terrified while sharing the locker room with a transgender woman who she misidentified as a male. The incident has sparked national conservative media attention and that of right wing extremist. USA Today national correspondent Wil Karlis was at the rally and joins us now. Well , welcome.
S6: Thanks for having me.
S6: Basically , this this young lady who lives locally , who uses the YMCA , claimed that she was exiting the shower and saw what she described or who she described as a male in the changing rooms. We've since learned it was actually a transgender female. And yes , she went on the city council , went to the city council , made an impassioned speech about , you know , not wanting to share the locker room with certain individuals. And within 24 hours or so , she was making the same pleas on the same , you know , making the same claims on Tucker Carlson. And this kind of caught fire in that in the far right , far right wing media universe. And that led to the two , I think it was two different rallies last week at the Santee , Y. Hmm.
S1: Hmm. I mean , tell me about the impact that far right talk shows have had on this whole situation.
S6: Oh , enormous. I mean , I saw I cover I cover extremists of all different stripes from the far right to the far left to have done for about five years. And I can tell you that this is the number one issue. Uniting the far right at the moment would be anti trans anti LGBTQ issues in general , but particularly focused on things like all age drag shows. And now this is kind of a new conflagration and it's not a new one. It's sort of a rebirth , that one that we've seen before , where we're having these fights over over spaces and whether people whether transgender individuals should be allowed to use those spaces. And that is it's just a hugely unifying thing for the far right who are looking for a kind of a new brand to kind of unite around and to get outraged about. And this is this is what they're outraged about. This month , I guess.
S1: You were at one of those rallies in Santee.
S6: I mean , I don't want people to think that this was , you know , a bunch of skinheads and neo-Nazis who showed up at this rally. Most of the people were , you know , families and just regular people , regular conservatives who feel a certain way about this issue. I will say that there was a fringe element. So there were some there was some people who showed up in support of trans rights there , and they kept largely separate from the other group. And then there were some there were a few individuals from the sort of left wing camp who were very vocal and were kind of shouting on a bullhorn. And that turned into a kind of a splinter off from the main group where you had a lot of , you know , well-known white supremacist , well-known skinheads. There was a guy with a proud boys sweater on. So people who are really well-known , kind of classic , you know , cataloged members of far right extremist groups who took it upon themselves to kind of face off against the the people from the left. And you saw some scuffles and some some some tear gas or some bad spray being sprayed and some kind of shoving matches and a lot of shouting. But no , no sort of real violence. But but I will say , you know , these are the people that have been , you know , kind of tracked by people who watch extremist for a long time. They're well-known in the community. And they were certainly there to , I guess , show support for the issue , but also to to cause trouble , which is why they show up to these things. Hmm.
S1: Hmm. And , you know , as you mentioned there and also in your report , you frame it as saying , you know , there was a who's who of San Diego white supremacist proud boys and others there , but also mainstream conservative politicians.
S6: So things like , you know , the transgender issue , obviously , there's a lot at. Discussion going on right now about , you know , about transgender rights and how they should be expanded. And a lot of people , you know , a lot of people believe that they shouldn't be expanded. A lot of people on the on the far right of the political spectrum. And these extremists know that. And so they grab hold of these issues. But , of course , they're coming at it from a completely different point of view. These people are not people who want to have a reasoned discussion about how society changes. They they're haters and they hate , you know , people , LGBTQ people , they hate transgender people and they masquerade as like , really caring about the sort of , you know , the political side of things when in actual fact they're extremists who , you know , who want to cause trouble and want to cause people harm. So it's sort of this weird kind of societal kind of camouflage that goes on with these groups where , you know , whether it's , you know , anti critical race theory or it's the mandates for for masks and for vaccines. But they they find these issues and they grab hold of them and and use that to kind of recruit new members , but also to sort of say , oh , we're just mainstream conservatives. We're not the extremists.
S6: I will point out that by the time that rally happened , she hadn't been identified , or at least not to my knowledge , hadn't been identified. So I do think it's extremely important going forwards to acknowledge that , you know , that she's a woman of color. And I'm sure that that plays into the sort of the growing , you know , the growing extremism building up around this issue.
S1: And we're talking about this just in terms of , you know , rallies here and there. But this this these ideologies , this results in violence to correct 100%.
S6: So obviously , we had the shooting at the the nightclub , the club. Q shooting in in Colorado Springs in November. Look , you know , there's some there's some confusion as to the motives there. We don't really know the motives , but that was a LGBTQ space in a in a very conservative town that had just hosted a drag show and that was due to host an all ages drag show the next morning. You know , I don't think there's very much doubt. I mean , we have to wait and see , but I don't think there's very much doubt what the real motives were there. So , yeah , I mean , there's real life impacts. We've also seen businesses that host old age drag shows getting firebombed. We've seen people beaten up at these events. I mean , no question , this has this isn't just shouting. And I will say as well , last Wednesday , we were very , very close to a lot of violence happening. I mean , I stood and watched people bumping chests against each other for about an hour with absolutely no interaction or stepping in from the from the San Diego sheriff who stayed nice and warm inside in the YMCA until the far right extremists had left and the speeches were largely over and then came over and and decided to make a show of force in front of the largely peaceful group of leftists who were there. So , you know , it's I think we've we've only seen the very beginnings of the possible damage and the possible harm and the possible , you know , violence that can come out of these confrontations.
S1: I've been speaking with Will Karlis , a national correspondent with USA Today. Will , thank you so much for joining us.
S6: Always a pleasure. Thank you.
S1: Fernando Lopez is the executive director for San Diego LGBT Pride. They join us now to help put this situation into context. Fernando , thanks for joining us.
S2: Thank you so much for having me.
S1: The uproar over a transwoman taking a shower in a locker room has turned a lot of conservative attention onto this anti YMCA.
S3: And it's really about political polarization. It is only January 23rd , and we have seen 202 pieces of anti LGBTQ legislation entered into 32 different states. Legislative bodies. Violence targeting the LGBT community. In the trans community , the drag community has been on a dramatic rise to the point where even the Department of Homeland Security put out a national terrorism advisory , talking about the intersection of LGBTQ people being at risk , immigrants being at risk , and the anti-Semitic violence at our Jewish community being at risk. And so really , I think what we saw last week with this demonstration , there were people wearing anti-Semitic T-shirts there. There were folks from the Proud Boys from the very far right extremism. And so I think it's important for us as Americans to really pay attention to what's happening politically right now.
S3: They think it's when other folks impose discrimination on us. Right. As as everyday Americans , we should all enjoy freedom and liberty and justice and the right to privacy , simply navigating the world. But what we have been seeing is this hyper focus on this dehumanizing trans folks , dehumanizing , nonbinary folks that we're being subjected to discrimination in different places of work , employment , education , housing and obviously public accommodation. So it's really about never understanding in any given moment the bias of the person in front of you that you're walking into a store or a restaurant or a school or a health care provider. And we shouldn't have to endure that sort of discrimination. But we know that this is sort of the landscape at the moment , and we're still fighting against that.
S1: And our media partner , ten News , is reporting the woman at the center of this controversy , Christine Woods , will be speaking at the Jose City Council on Wednesday. Here she is. Take a listen.
S7: It's important that they finally get to hear the truth and they finally get to put a face on this scary transgender woman who was misgendered.
S3: That here was an innocent woman minding his own business in a locker room. And now there's this whole national attention being placed on this human being , this American who was just trying to go about her day. And so what we've seen across different media outlets is this hyper polarization , radicalization , miss categorization that not only dehumanized her , but an entire segment of our population. And so what we know that time and time again when especially our young people are living in homes where maybe they don't have a supportive household , they don't have supportive parents having to hear that sort of vitriol and discrimination targeting towards someone that they know is clearly part of who they are is psychologically damaging. And we know that folks don't feel safe. We know that there's higher rates of absenteeism in school when children are then bullying other youth , or maybe which leads to lower educational outcomes , lower long term lived experience , economic outcomes and employment outcomes. And those things have ripple impacts across an entire lifetime. And so the way that we have these conversations in the media is really important because then that's how other folks in the world understand our community. Trans people exist , non-binary people exist. We have always existed. Our existence isn't up for debate. And yet when these extremist opportunists are taking these moments out of context , we're really talking about then how we are being under threat , right ? It jeopardizes our safety , our health , our privacy and our well-being and our very lives.
S1: And , you know , speaking of which , Christine Woods , she is black. And black trans women face a disproportionate amount of violence.
S3: And so what we have seen over the last several years is a dramatic rise in folks being targeted because they are black transgender women. Right. When we talk about systemic discrimination. And what that intersection looks like , we know that this country has an issue with the way that we treat women. We have an issue with race in how we treat people of color. We have an issue with the trans community , the LGBT community as a nation. And so when your lived experience is at the intersection of those areas , you are that much more vulnerable , which is why we've seen disproportionate violence and bullying , discrimination targeting our black trans community.
S1: And , you know , I don't want to discount what the 17 year old who spoke before the Santee City Council about her experience at the Y said she says she was scared of Miss Wood. And I wonder what your reaction is to that.
S3: I'm a sexual assault survivor myself , and so I understand how a woman might feel afraid of a man. But that's not what happened here. We're talking about a woman. 99% of perpetrators of sexual assault are men. But we're not talking that. So if we want to have those conversations , let's absolutely have those conversations. I think the MeToo movement was a wonderful thing for people of all genders when we were actually acknowledging that rape and sexual assault happened. But that's not the issue here. And so I think there's been an odd framing of what we're really talking about here , which is two different things that are being conflated into one moment. So let's talk about how we educate men to treat women better in the world and that those fears are real. We know that. What is it ? One in five women have been raped or sexually assaulted in their lifetime. So how do we address consent ? How do we. Again , that goes back to misogyny and body autonomy. So we're still talking about some of these same core fundamental issues. But we can't conflate and talk about this innocent woman who is minding her own business , being conflated with the perpetrators , that we have very real fear and concern about.
S1: I've been speaking with Fernando Lopez , the executive director for the San Diego LGBT Pride. Thank you so much for joining us , Fernando.
S3: Thank you so much. Have a great day.
S1: You too. San Diego Gas and Electric customers are opening surprisingly high utility bills this month. Natural gas rates are more than double what they were a year ago , and electricity costs are up , too. KPBS environment reporter Erik Anderson says there is plenty of financial pain to go around.
S4: Michelle Bills is live just east of downtown San Diego in the same South Park apartment for nearly 20 years.
S3: It's cozy. It's warm. I really like it. It's close to work as well , which is a huge plus.
S4: But her 650 square foot home has been anything but warm recently as Bales braces for a big San Diego gas and electric bill. She's already changing her daily routines.
S3: I try not to use the gas heater. I obviously I have to cook. I try not to turn on all the lights. Sometimes I'll sit here at night with candles and just the TV just to not rack up the fees.
S4: Bales spent half of the past month House sitting elsewhere , and her January bill still topped $200. She only paid about $60 in November. Bales is able to make on time payments , but many San Diego gas and electric customers are not. We have about 3.7 million customers. Of that , approximately 341,000 or 25% are at some level behind on their bill. San Diego Gas and Electric's Anthony Wagner says delinquencies are counted as people who are at least 30 days behind in their bills. Most are more than 60 days late. It's a surprisingly large number.
S7: Five years ago , the numbers are more like ten or 15% that were behind.
S4: Mark Wolf is the director of the National Energy Assistance Directors Association.
S7: 25% clearly suggests that the cost of home energy becoming unaffordable for many families. And the programs we have in place are not sufficient to have them pay these bills.
S4: In fact , about a third of San Diego gas and electric customers are already enrolled in a rate assistance program. The two biggest are the California Alternative Rates for Energy and the Family Electric Rate Assistance Program. Both offer rate reductions based on family income. But San Diego Gas and Electric still has about $200 million in delinquent customer debt.
S7: And the whammy here is that utilities go to the front of the line because they can shut you up for power , lose access to Internet , access to air conditioning or heating. So it places a very significant burden on the families where when prices go up for food , you can substitute one item for another. You can stretch your food budget out. There are things you can do. We have more control over it.
S4: Power shutoffs haven't happened in any service area since March of 2020 , but the statewide COVID prohibition on disconnections expired in 2021. SD Jenny hasn't cut off power for overdue bills since 2020. But company spokesman Anthony Wagner says that will likely change this year. He says the utility needs to start collecting that $200 million from customers with past due bills. He's also quick to say that customers who are struggling have options. As long as you're in communication with us and you have a strategy with the utility on how to pay off your arrearage. You're not going to get yourself disconnected , but you have to be in communication with us. Wagner says the astronomically high gas bills should begin falling next month. When temperatures climb , demand fades and gas rates are reset. And that's welcome news for Crassness for Boda. She lives in an oceanside apartment and the high bills have her making tough budgetary choices.
S3: I'm on a fixed income , so there isn't going to be any more money than there is , and I need to budget it every month. So things that vary from month to month significantly impact me more.
S4: Even customers who are not struggling financially may end up feeling the fiscal pain. If San Diego Gas and Electric can't collect an outstanding debt , the utility will roll that debt into electricity and natural gas rates. That raises utility prices and keeps pressure on customers who are already struggling. Erik Anderson , KPBS News.
S1: You're listening to KPBS Midday edition. I'm Jade Hindman. Industry and government collect a lot of data about us , so much that states like California have placed some strict rules in data collection in the interest of privacy. But University of San Diego law professor Orly Lobel argues that in many cases , we don't need less information about people. We need more to help create a just society. She's written a book called The Equality Machine Harnessing Digital Technology for a brighter , More Inclusive Future.
S8: Let's first talk about collecting that data in a way that limits the collection and protects privacy. You say laws and policies that do that have gone too far. Can you comment on that ? Sure.
S3: So we have had concepts of privacy for quite a while. It's been around this idea that we can have this kind of intrusion , free space , secluded spaces. And there's a lot of good and , you know , there's definitely not to deny that we need some rights of privacy. But we've seen also over the years privacy use , not just the shield , but as a sword to hide from public accountability , to hide from , you know , kind of having more transparency about corporate or government practices. And so it turns out that privacy oftentimes serves the more powerful. For example , in scholarly papers , I show that the gender and racial pay gaps have been very stagnant because people basically don't know that they're underpaid.
S8: Let's talk about that at University of San Diego or at KPBS.
S3: Private institutions that are leaders in the field of equality and public agencies federally in California have really been moving toward making salaries more transparent. To correct for those inequities that have long pervaded our markets.
S8: Let's look at two other things surveillance cameras and facial recognition software. How does collecting info like that help us ? Some people consider those to be invasions of privacy.
S3: There's no denying that there are can be abuse of some technologies. That's always been the case with new technology that you can use them in , in and of themselves or the neutral tools and you can use them for good. You can use them for bad. But my message is that we are underplaying all the positive potential of these kinds of technologies. For example , facial recognition has been immensely important to find missing children , for example. There's facial recognition that's paired with machine learning that can age missing children according to , you know , how many years they have been missing. And really allowing law enforcement to identify people that they would never have been able in our human capacities. So we shouldn't be blocking the collection of information and the development of technologies that are smarter , that are faster , that are more accurate. Just because , you know , there can be abuse , misuse. We really shouldn't have this focused conversation about we want more data. We want more capacities and capabilities. That's the story of human progress. But then we have to control for , you know , putting them for good use and blocking the misuses.
S8: Or your book is called The Equality Machine.
S3: And anything that augments our human capacities through using data , using digital technology for goods , and especially for the quest for equality. Why there've been exclusions and why there hasn't been enough access in schools and education in health.
S8: Let's talk about algorithms. An algorithm is a computer program that collects data , makes calculations and reaches conclusions. You might call it artificial intelligence. Is there a better way to create algorithms that results in greater equality.
S3: At every step of the way ? There are better. There are ways to design algorithms. There are better ways to feed the algorithms , fuller datasets. In the public debates , in the media , there's a lot of misconceptions that algorithms are necessarily going to replicate our past biases. They're going to be biased. We have these fallacies in our conversations that we should just throw away the the baby with the bathwater or throw away the technology rather than thinking about designing algorithms in better ways. I show , for example , in the context of screening for jobs. That's another one that scares people a lot , that nowadays we actually know that in practice , Fortune 500 companies , the vast majority of them actually do use automated systems to screen resume this , to screen job interviews candidates , and make decisions about applicants who to hire , who to promote. And there's a bad way to design these algorithms. The bad way would be to say to the algorithm , Go to what we've done in the past. You know , these are the people that we hire , just replicate their profile. And then it really is a bad way because we're not expanding the pool. We are replicating biases. So we want to throw that away and we want to have thinking of it's called rather than exploitation algorithms , exploration , algorithms.
S8: Algorithms do what we tell them to do , right ? And so it does rely on our judgments about how they should work , what kind of data they should collect.
S3: Yes and no , because a lot of times the engineer doesn't really understand because it's so , you know , the speed and the scale of data that an algorithm can mine through. But the human doesn't really understand , like how do they reach the outcome ? But you can tell them , like what we want is people who are most likely to work well and in teams and to have a creative capacity and inventive capacity of thinking outside of the box , you know. And there's a lot of trial and error. You write that , you know , like you can tell the algorithms what factors to ignore. Even then , if you tell them , you know , don't take into account gender , race. It turns out that there's enough proxies that it's very hard to blind an algorithm , and it's not even a good idea to blind. And I mean , because what we can also do and this is what I was kind of referring to , that we're not even anymore in the zone of a single algorithm. We're talking about automated systems. These days , the gold standard is to have at least two algorithms , one that does the initial screening , and then you have a second algorithm that does a discrimination check or equity checkup. Like are there proportional decisions that are made across different identities ? Okay.
S8: Well , let's talk about equality. I'm speaking with Orly Lobel , who is the author of The Equality Machine. I read somewhere that equality is a tricky concept. One writer posed the following questions about what is equality among people ? Are we talking about identity blindness ? Rejecting any consideration of one's gender , race or other social markers ? Do we mean statistical parity ? Some might call those quotas. What happens when there's a tension between equality and accuracy ? And actually , that writer was you. It's in your book. So my question is , even if we program computers the best we can.
S3: Those are not new questions. So they've always been part of our democracy. So in between the different concepts of equality , is that representation , You know , do we want laws that say we want equal representation on boards and mandatory quotas of of women , for example , like California has done on executive boards ? Or do we want just like blindness , color blindness , or really kind of a an agreed upon reflection of merit ? These are questions that have always pervaded our systems , but it turns out that we know more when we allow that algorithms to actually collect data about identities. So one thing is that we can at least detect differences and disparities in a much better way when we are collecting a lot of data through machine learning , through big data. I think that it's too much to expect that technology will correct everything. At least it illuminates , you know , the choices that we have. We need to kind of see it and then go back and , you know , really address our the root causes and our all our systems.
S8: Well , or lead. LOBEL , thank you very much.
S3: Thank you.
S1: That was all Lo Bell , author of The Equality Machine Harnessing Digital Technology for a brighter , more Inclusive Future. She was speaking with KPBS sci-tech reporter Thomas Fudge.