2021-11-30 16:00 - 17:30 Online
Prof. Dr. Nick Couldry (London School of Economics and Political Science) and Prof. Dr. Ulises Ali Mejias (State University of New York at Oswego) will present on AI and Big Data from the Perspective Data Colonialism.
It is common for governments and INGOs to refer to big data and artificial intelligence as an inevitable aspect of future progress, based on an assumption that “data is the lifeblood of economic development” (‘A European Strategy for Data’, 2020). But as leading AI expert Stuart Russell noted in his 2019 book Human Compatible, it is far from clear that AI development can be contained within the goals that humans set for it, and in any case those goals are currently being calibrated largely by large corporations, not citizens. That is just one of the issues raised by contemporary processes of datafication. This talk will bring such issues into focus by introducing the thesis of data colonialism (Couldry and Mejias 2018, 2019): the idea that today’s massive expansion in data collection, processing and use represents not a neutral advance in human knowledge, but a new type of land-grab which appropriates human life, rather than physical territory, on a scale that potentially will rival that of historic colonialism. This thesis requires a major reassessment of the parameters of datafication, in particular of how and where big data is extracted, and the limits that should be imposed upon such extraction. Such a reassessment is starting to be called for by activist within the data industries (c.f. Mohamed, Png and Isaac 2020). But the task needs to go beyond theory or academic papers: alliances and spaces are needed which enable voices from the Global South to be heard in the deliberations of Big Tech industries.
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