This week, The Good Wife tackles the complicated algorithms that guide our digital lives and the emotional algorithms that guide our hearts. In both cases, those algorithms are messy and problematic, and somebody’s bound to get hurt.
The case of the week involved Chumhum, yet again. Monica Timmons (who, you’ll recall, wasn’t hired at Lockhart, Agos, and Lee in favor of three white guys) calls in a favor from Diane on behalf of a friend whose restaurant was run out of business by Chummy Maps. The maps automatically provide safety ratings of neighborhoods to tell users which parts of cities should be avoided. The restaurant was in a neighborhood designated as dangerous, and the owner wants to sue, arguing that the safety ratings are racist codes for minority neighborhoods.
Alicia and Lucca get involved when Louis Canning brings them in to defend Chumhum, and the judge first orders discovery on anything involving Chummy Maps and race and then expands it to every facet of Chumhum’s operations. So the Canning associates are given the daunting task of reviewing Chumhum’s hard drives and deciding if each occurrence of a depressing lists of racially insensitive words is responsive or nonresponsive to the discovery request.
At Lockhart, Agos, and Lee, Monica and Cary settle into an uneasy work pattern, sniping at each other about the white male hires and reverse racism. They’re smiling so hard as they talk to each other, but you know those smiles are covering up the seething resentment they both feel.
Meanwhile, Alicia and Lucca arrive at Chumhum HQ to talk with coder Kip, and he mentions “the animal incident.” The women shut him down immediately, not wanting to be ethically obligated to disclose whatever that means. But eventually it comes out: Three years ago, the algorithm that auto-sorted photos into categories would tag photos of black people under the heading “animal.”
Clearly, this isn’t good for Chumhum’s “hey, we’re not racist!” argument, particularly when the coders say it’s because the algorithm wasn’t given enough photos of minorities. Lucca asks if the algorithm ever mistook a white person for a polar bear, then looks pointedly around at all of the white male employees, who only coded what they know.
Canning, ever the slippery ethical eel, tells Alicia and Lucca not to include the animal incident in the discovery but does suggest that they include every racist joke that Chumhum’s search results would turn up. In the end, Diane and Cary receive a 50 terabyte hard drive of discovery, which Cary describes as the largest document dump in legal history.
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However, one of the eager white guys hired in place of Monica earns his keep by uncovering the animal incident, which Diane brings up in court. When the judge finds out that Alicia knew about it but didn’t include it in discovery, he blows his top and holds her in contempt. Man, Louis Canning really is the devil.
In the end, Chumhum and the restaurant owner settle out of court; the photo coder is fired, and Chummy Maps’ safety filters are changed to opt in. Furthermore, Alicia provides proof that the failed restaurant was struggling even before the safe filters went live — proof they found because it was stored on Chumhum’s cloud service.
NEXT: Eli tangles with Jason Crouse