Po­lit­i­cal change vi­tal to democra­tise AI

The Guardian - Journal - - Letters -

Stephen Cave is right to high­light the eth­i­cal is­sues with ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence (To save us from a Kafkaesque fu­ture, we must democra­tise AI, 4 Jan­uary) but we should be wary of fo­cus­ing on “di­ver­sity and in­clu­sion”. He ar­gues that in­clud­ing the voices of more women or black peo­ple will en­sure a more eth­i­cal (and ef­fi­cient) fu­ture for AI. But as soft­ware de­vel­oper and ac­tivist Na­bil Has­sein points out: “The lib­er­a­tion of op­pressed peo­ple can never be achieved by in­clu­sion in sys­tems con­trolled by a cap­i­tal­ist elite which ben­e­fits from the per­pet­u­a­tion of op­pres­sions.” Let’s not kid our­selves that hav­ing fe­male or black CEOs at Face­book would stop its abuses of power.

To democra­tise AI, we need to take back con­trol of dig­i­tal in­fra­struc­tures and build al­ter­na­tives that serve col­lec­tive in­ter­ests. Refugee women in Ham­burg and cab driv­ers in Texas are run­ning co­op­er­a­tive plat­forms for find­ing work. Cities such as Barcelona are build­ing sys­tems that give cit­i­zens con­trol of their data. Tech and gig econ­omy work­ers are union­is­ing to de­mand bet­ter rights. These strate­gies recog­nise that AI sys­tems re­late to wider agen­das such as pri­vati­sa­tion and dereg­u­la­tion. To al­ter them we need po­lit­i­cal change, not just tech­ni­cal fixes fo­cussed on pri­vacy or bias.

Also, can we stop us­ing words such as Or­wellian or Kafkaesque to de­scribe the ac­tiv­i­ties of tech gi­ants and call them what they are: cap­i­tal­ist.

Mi­randa Hall

Re­searcher, New Eco­nom­ics Foun­da­tion

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