AI hype: Unbearably white and male

In this (rightly) scathing article by Andrea Grimes, she denounces the “AI” hype by tech bros perpetuated by much of the mainstream media coverage on large language models, ChatGPT, and GPT4.

These developments have so far touted either excitement or fear amongst tech pundits of “AI” being “sentient” or “conscious”. The latter group has led to an open letter, calling for a pause in AI development which is ironically, led by some of the most privileged and powerful tech actors. This should seriously and critically make us consider why that is happening, as is also shown by the incisive reaction to the letter from the critical AI community.

As pointed out in this article, mainstream AI commentary has largely focused on the interests and speculation of nerdy white dudes. Problematically, the work by critical AI experts who have documented the AI harms and risks that disproportionately fall onto people who have historically been minoritised is consistently erased, side-lined and denounced. Meredith Whittaker stresses in an interview that the current discourse on AI is a distraction from more pressing threats. Tech pundits and many in the public sphere are “falling into a trance,” which distracts us from actual threats such as climate change, or ongoing harms to marginalised groups of people.

The reality of AI is that its development requires human labour to function, an extension of the history of automation that uses technology in order to invisibilise and exploit labour. AI development also has significant energy demands that impacts and harms the environment. The detrimental effects of these technologies will continue to be borne by the racialised, classed, gendered, disabled et cetera individuals and groups in society. As Grimes highlights “we have humanised computers and dehumanised people.” The prioritised voices on the topic of AI remain overwhelmingly wealthy, powerful, male and white: this unbearable whiteness of being continues to cost and harm the many others who are often deemed as less than human.

See: The Unbearable White Maleness of AI at Dame Magazine.

Image from Elon Musk Interviews.

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