IP-AI • JUNE 25, 2019
How AI alters and enhances our understanding of reality
Megan Kelleher (Barada and Gabalbara) is a PhD. student looking at Indigenous Knowledge Systems and the blockchain. Ms. Kelleher attended the March 2019 Indigenous Protocol and Artificial Intelligence workshops in Hawai’i. Here she describes how AI’s can help us understand our place in the Universe.
Hi. Okay. So my name is Megan Kelleher, I’m a Barada and Gabalbara woman from the Central Queensland in Australia. And so I came to be a part of this workshop through a Linkedin connection with Angie Abdilla, and I was invited to participate because there’s kind of some synergies between this work and the work that I’m doing, in my PHD looking at Indigenous Knowledge systems and the blockchain. So my PHD, as I mentioned, is looking at the synergies or the conflicts between Indigenous Knowledge systems and second wave automation, artificial intelligence, blockchain and these kinds of technologies where automation is occurring. So it’s really grounded essentially in Indigenous protocols and how or whether they can inform the design of artificial intelligence or the design of these automated protocols, these automated systems.
So I actually find it extremely interesting because it’s teaching me a lot about how within Indigenous Knowledge systems we’re not at the centre of the universe. So I’m just finding it really interesting to learn how AI is kind of teaching me about my own culture. I’m excited by exploring what AI can do and how they are actually some different ways that cognition occurs culturally. So different cultures have different cognition processes, and so I’m interested in what AI does to time and space and how it kind of alters and enhances our understanding of reality. I’m also concerned about what it can do and what the risks might be because it’s so huge and it’s mysterious and it reaches into places that we don’t know it’s reaching a lot of the time.
“...different cultures have different cognition processes, and so I’m interested in what AI does to time and space and how it kind of alters and enhances our understanding of reality. ”
And I’m concerned because do we have a choice to participate in it? And so these workshops have given me some hope I guess, that we can influence it in an ideal world. If it does become as powerful as people are saying that it can be, I would hope that it can empower, Aboriginal peoples. I hope that it can help us to understand our genius. I hope that it can help us to understand that we were always, that we always had this genius in our old ways and kind of lead us back to that place where we were before. I hope that the world listens. I hope that the people who are designing AI and using AI and implementing AI’s think really seriously about what it is that they’re doing.
I hope that they get an understanding this is not the only way. Our ways are valuable and important. They kept us alive. They kept the earth alive. They kept the earth healthy for thousands of generations forever into the past. So I hope that these workshops can provide some knowledge that, and I’m certain that it will. We’ve come up with stuff that’s really valuable. I just hope that people take it seriously and they don’t just kind of write it off and think that’s a bunch of black fellas getting into a room and playing imaginary games. It’s really important what we’ve done.
Our thought experiments, they will lead us somewhere if people take it seriously. You know, we’ve got massive fires in Tasmania. We’ve got massive fish kills happening in the Murray. We’ve got droughts happening in Queensland. We’ve got skeletal cattle on the front covers of newspapers. I kind of think maybe that should send some signals to people in Australia that, and not just in Australia, that’s not just happening in Australia. I feel as though there might be a bit of a shift, I see little slivers of hope.
“...I guess our message to the world, to the designers of AI and similar technologies is be humble and remember that humans are not the centre of the universe.”
I read a story about a couple who handed back half of their property in Tasmania to an Aboriginal land council, because they believe that they can look after it and manage it better than ... I think that it just shows that they actually do understand and they care for the land and they want it to go on. So I think there is a little bit of a shift, however you’ve still got politicians in the northern territory signing off on massive fracking deals, in the face of Larrakia elders just flat out saying, no, it’s not safe. We’ve got pipelines running through Queensland to offshore gas shipping terminals that are staring up the rafe. We’ve still got all of these environmental catastrophes and we’ve got, in some ways there is a shift, but it’s far too slow. And you know, as much as AI is really exciting area to explore the technology that it requires in its current stage, the materials that are required to support the technologies are not sustainable.
So we need to think about how, if we could program an AI that can tell us: “build me with this”. This has been an amazing, just coming together with all of these really thoughtful, humble, powerful, Indigenous peoples from around the world has been really inspiring and humbling. And two days has just not been long enough and I really want to be involved as the project goes forward, but I guess our message to the world, to the designers of AI and similar technologies is be humble and remember that humans are not the centre of the universe.
Megan Kelleher (Barada and Gabalbara) is one of RMIT’s Vice Chancellor’s Indigenous Pre‑Doctoral Fellows in the School of Media and Communication. The working title of her thesis is ‘Blockchain, Black chains and the battle for systems sovereignty: mutual solutions for governance using Indigenous Knowledge (IK) systems and Indigenous-controlled protocols within the Blockchain’. The research seeks to explore the logical, structural or architectural synergies – or incompatibilities – between IK systems and Blockchain technologies, and the opportunities to embed IK approaches into second-wave automation.
The Indigenous Protocols and Artificial Intelligence (IP-AI) workshops are founded by Old Ways, New, and the Initiative for Indigenous Futures. This work is funded by the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR), Old Ways, New, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and the Concordia University Research Chair in Computational Media and the Indigenous Future Imaginary.