Don’t miss this 4-part journalism series on ‘AI Colonialism’

The MIT Technology Review has written a four-part series on how the impact of AI is “repeating the patterns of colonial history.” The Review is careful not to directly compare the current situation with the colonialist capturing of land, extraction of resources, and exploitation of people. Yet, they clearly show that AI does further enrich the wealthy at the tremendous expense of the poor.

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Exploitative labour is central to the infrastructure of AI

In this piece, Julian Posada writes about a family of five in Venezuela, who synchronise their routines so that there will always be two people at the computer working for a crowdsourcing platform to make a living. They earn a few cents per task in a cryptocurrency and are only allowed to cash out once they’ve made at least the equivalent of USD 10. On average they earn about USD 20 per week, but their earnings can be erratic, resulting in extreme stress and precarity.

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Transformative Justice and Knowledge Production in Tech

Techno-capitalism is re-negotiating the social contract but knowledge about technologies is too often sequestered behind the lock doors of industry. Black women researchers like Dr. Timnit Gebru who raised alarm about the racial and ecological implications of emergent technologies are systematically silenced and forced out. Additionally, corporate capture of academic departments has even further limited the space to do critical research. Given these obstacles, how can researchers both inside and outside of tech companies do the difficult work of research, critique, and resistance? When individualist opportunism is the guiding norm of knowledge production, how do we cultivate a practice of transformative justice in the context of tech research? What are the set of tools and collective histories Black people in the Americas and the Black global diaspora can draw on in order to care for each other in the process of producing research about tech?

By Safiya Noble and Timnit Gebru for YouTube on March 31, 2022

Big Tech is propped up by a globally exploited workforce

Behind the promise of automation, advances of machine learning and AI, often paraded by tech companies like Amazon, Google, Facebook and Tesla, lies a deeply exploitative industry of cheap, human labour. In an excerpt published on Rest of the World from his forthcoming book, “Work Without the Worker: Labour in the Age of Platform Capitalism,” Phil Jones illustrates how the hidden labour of automation is outsourced to marginalised, racialised and disenfranchised populations within the Global North, as well as in the Global South.

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