Stories of everyday life with AI in the global majority

This collection by the Data & Society Research Institute sheds an intimate and grounded light on what impact AI-systems can have. The guiding question that connects all of the 13 non-fiction pieces in Parables of AI in/from the Majority world: An Anthology is what stories can be told about a world in which solving societal issues is more and more dependent on AI-based and data-driven technologies? The book, edited by Rigoberto Lara Guzmán, Ranjit Singh and Patrick Davison, through narrating ordinary, everyday experiences in the majority world, slowly disentangles the global and unequally distributed impact of digital technologies.

Both by focussing on the majority world and using the medium of storytelling the book is able to push beyond the usual “output-input” thinking in the global-north, centered around terms such as bias, fairness, transparency and explainable AI. The editors argue compellingly in the prologue how this vocabulary makes us narrowly approach AI from a design perspective in which AI-systems are seen as tools:

In contrast, the conceptual vocabulary of scholars in/from the global south focuses more explicitly on how these systems work for some, often at the expense of others, but not for everyone.” – “In using these concepts to describe living with data and AI, the aim becomes less about design specifications and more about surfacing inequalities and violence within specific social structures that AI-based systems perpetuate.

Using storytelling as a medium allows for a layer or intimacy and humanity as it creates a relation between the writer and the reader, but also those that readers go on to tell the stories that strike them too. The stories that you will find in this anthology are broad ranging and touch on topics such as Chinese technology companies in Nairobi, delivery riders in India or mental health and chatbots. This book is an invitation to connect and to reflect that you won’t regret accepting.

See Parables of AI in/from the Majority World: An Anthology at Data & Society.

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