Is this a coincidence or is there some way? Facial recognition, which is much less accurate for African Americans than for whites, incorrectly identifies a person as a suspect in the theft. In South Africa, of all places, a tight surveillance network is being set up in poor, black suburbs that could usher in a new form of “digital apartheid”. In crisis-stricken Venezuela, international corporations are taking advantage of the plight of those who masquerade as click workers to produce the raw materials that propel the technology: annotated data for the training of other AIs. The list can be extended as desired.
A growing number of academics are arguing: no, it’s no coincidence. Artificial intelligence, the technology that represents a logical, indestructible and objective analytical spirit like no other, scientific progress and the American pursuit of happiness, cannot be separated from the context in which it was developed. Its premises, its science, its infrastructure, the data on which it is trained – all these elements are deeply rooted in a worldview based on a belief in the superiority of the white man over the rest of the world. Only if this thinking is critically processed and science is “decolonised”, can it really live up to its claim of “serving the good of all mankind” (OpenAI). What’s up with this idea? Can a critical awareness of the intellectual roots of technology help design better AI that truly benefits everyone – not just a small, privileged minority?
legacy of colonialism
At first glance, the connection between colonialism and AI seems to be built. How should a political practice running from the 17th to the 20th century have to do with one of the major technologies of the 21st century? But “the practice of colonialism is still very much alive,” says Kanta Dihal, who heads the Decolonizing AI research project at the University of Cambridge. “Even in countries where colonialism dates back several decades, such as much of Africa, the legacy of colonialism has an impact on everyday life. Everything from wide structural inequalities to very practical everyday decisions Feather.” In the literature, the concept is named “colonialism”. It describes the “continuity of power dynamics” set in motion by the “historical processes of slavery, appropriation and exploitation” and which have shaped the “structure of the modern world”.
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