I, the [hu]man of color, want only this:
That the tool never possess the [hu]man.
— Frantz Fanon, “Black Skin, White Masks” (1952)
Fanon made this plea just as the first digital computers were being built in America. Almost seventy years later, information technologies built on artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) are being woven tighter and tighter into social and civic fabrics worldwide, encoding colonial injustices into global information infrastructures. The software tool has come to possess the human of color.
Who builds these tools? Much new work in AI and ML is informed by an understanding of AI and ML that is rooted in the cultural and legal values of the Global North. For example, American science-fictional tropes of the 1950s influence the popular imagination of these technologies as superhuman governing “intelligences” or subhuman servile “robots” floating in a placeless fog of information. The uses of AI and ML are situated in different cultural, political, and geographical localities, where there are also differences of power and agency amongst the people who are interacting with such technologies. Too often technological futures are being determined solely by those with advanced training in technological systems and with a flattened sense of the social landscape.
As Audre Lorde said in 1979, “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” Thus our work, as critical researchers, artists, and activists, must start by dismantling these tropes to build a collective understanding of these tools together. For example, we might consider the following questions:
- What forms of “intelligence” are implicitly encoded and privileged in these technologies? How can we encode different, plural ways of knowing? How could we machine them to intelligently care for the human, more than human, and the planet?
- How are different kinds of resources, like minerals, information, and labor, exchanged across the planet to sustain these information technologies? How can we reshape these flows?
- How can we critically rethink the creative and social justice potentials and functions of non-human intelligences? What communities and questions are being underserved or overserved by these systems?
- How do the social and economic conditions of global competition shape the pedagogies of AI and ML? How can we develop alternative pedagogies that center questions of justice?
Informed by our work of unmaking the master’s tools, we will work together to build new kinds of tools that can build new kinds of houses. This summit proposes a creative reframing of the possibilities of machining intelligences, and works through three interconnected steps: Delanguageing, Relanguageing, and Intervening.
The invited guests work on and critically research questions of technology, computing, art, and humanities/social research. Most of the invited guests are connected to the Global South, and/or decolonial, feminist, and indigenous ways of thinking. They bring an activist and collaborative disposition, especially through participatory and performative ways of constructing knowledge, research, and artistic practice. We intentionally focus on the voices of the colonized, oppressed, and marginalized, which are so often left aside from technology discourse and development.
For the full programme and list of speakers, visit the official event page (in Portuguese), or the translated PDF programme (in English)
Co-Organizers: Katherine Ye, Dalida Maria Benfield, Bruno Moreschi, and Gabriel Pereira
This event was made possible with the support of: Center for Arts, Design, and Social Research (CAD+SR), Pedro Barbosa, C4AI - Center for Artificial Intelligence / CAIA - Comunidade de Arte e Inteligência Artificial, Inova USP, and the Institute of Advanced Studies (USP).
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