The Algorithmic Colonization of Africa
July 20, 2019 9:37 AM   Subscribe

 
"whether explicitly laid out or not, the central point [of commercial AI] is to analyse, infer, and deduce “users” weakness and deficiencies and how that can be used to the benefit of commercial firms. Products, ads, and other commodities can then be pushed to individual “users” as if they exist as an object to be manipulated and nudged towards certain behaviours deemed “correct” or “good” by these companies and developers."
Thanks for sharing this, it was a good read. And they stuck to a very focused counter-argument around the stated goals of AI solution developers. Add on potential social side effects ( previously ) and the risks pile up.
posted by anthill at 10:31 AM on July 20, 2019 [4 favorites]



Here's her twitter account @abebab
posted by Mrs Potato at 10:33 AM on July 20, 2019


I look forward to reading this, and thanks for sharing. This is extremely timely as Industrial Revolution 4.0 (for eg) is breaking out of being just a buzzword into legitimate policy frame over here.
posted by cendawanita at 1:16 PM on July 20, 2019 [1 favorite]


The algorithms or any process for that matter, software, manual, political or whatever inherit a bias from the worldview of the designer, Big Data is most often used by commercial interests at the moment but there is no reason a philanthropic or socialistic entity could not use the technology.

Mostly don't just ship tshirts, buy stuff from Africa.
posted by sammyo at 1:54 PM on July 20, 2019


I dunno, man. My experience in the African tech scene has overwhelmingly been with a wide range of developers with legitimate desires to help their communities. I think the stance that all of these people are secretly doing their best to subvert and manipulate users is disingenuous, and doesn't really help the conversation.

The iHub model in Nairobi is an excellent reference point: it's a center for independent developers, flying under the flag of Ushahidi, a non-profit developing "data-driven" mapping software for election monitoring and criss response. Akirachix teaches women (often from extremely challenged backgrounds) coding and web development. This leadership creates a great example, and the Kenyan developers I've worked with have carried those ethics forward, looking for ways to pay it forward both in community work and in the particular apps and projects that they work on.

Meanwhile, tech giants aren't going to stop tech gianting if there's a vacuum of local tech workers, building more localized solutions... Indeed, without local solutions, you are almost by definition doomed to use the global, one-size-fits-all versions.
posted by kaibutsu at 2:04 PM on July 20, 2019 [5 favorites]


My experience in the African tech scene has overwhelmingly been with a wide range of developers with legitimate desires to help their communities. I think the stance that all of these people are secretly doing their best to subvert and manipulate users is disingenuous, and doesn't really help the conversation.

The author is Ethiopian, one of Kenya's neighbouring countries, and doing her PhD in Cognitive Science with an interest in Data Ethics, per her twitter bio. The context for this piece relates to all the fancy forums and conferences where big Tech and big money such as INGOs or philanthropists like Gates et al attend and talk about the humanitarian uses of capturing all the poor people's data. I am confused as who is being more disingenuous here. As is to be expected, she is currently under attack on twitter.
posted by Mrs Potato at 9:34 AM on July 21, 2019 [1 favorite]


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