It turns out that the disposability of robots and the denigration of racialized populations go hand in hand. We can see this when police officers use “throwbots” – “a lightweight, ruggedized platform that can literally be thrown into position, then remotely controlled from a position of safety” – to collect video and audio surveillance for use by officers. In the words of a member of one of these tactical teams, “[t]he most significant advantage of the throwable robot is that it ‘allows them [sc. the officers] to own the real estate with their eyes, before they pay for it with their bodies.’”22 Robots are not the only ones sacrificed on the altar of public safety. So too are the many Black victims whose very bodies become the real estate that police officers own in their trigger-happy quest to keep the peace. The intertwining history of machines and slaves, in short, is not simply the stuff of fluff magazine articles.

While many dystopic predictions signal a worry that humans may one day be enslaved by machines, the current reality is that the tech labor force is already deeply unequal across racial and gender lines. Although not the same as the structure of enslavement that serves as an analogy for unfreedom, Silicon Valley’s hierarchy consists of the highest-paid creatives and entrepreneurs, who are comprised of White men and a few White women, and the lowest-paid manual laborers – “those cleaning their offices and assembling circuit boards,” in other words “immigrants and outsourced labor, often women living in the global south,” who usually perform this kind of work. The “diasporic diversity” embodied by South Asian and Asian American tech workforce does not challenge this hierarchy, because they continue to be viewed as a “new digital ‘different caste.’” As Nakamura notes, “no amount of work can make them part of the digital economy as ‘entrepreneurs’ or the ‘new economic men.’”25 Racism, in this way, is a technology that is “built into the tech industry.”26 But how does racism “get inside” and operate through new forms of technology?

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