IP-AI • JUNE 18, 2019
Peter Lucas Jones of Te Aupouri, Ngai Takoto, Te Rarawa, and Ngāti Kahu descent, is the General Manager of Te Hiku Media. attended the March 2019 Indigenous Protocol and Artificial Intelligence workshops in Hawai’i. Here he speaks about the opportunities for indigenous communities to utilize open source.
Kia ora, my name is Peter-Lucas Jones and I'm from Te Hiku o te ika, and my iwi, or my tribes, are Te Aupouri, Ngai Takoto and Ngati Kahu.
So I met Oiwi Parker Jones at Oxford University, which was in year 2018. We had the opportunity to meet with him and a few of his colleagues and talk about Maori language voice recognition and the opportunities that that gave to our people to actually synthesize a voice in our language, to actually develop a huge text corpus for, a data for development and innovation and along with that an acoustic database or an acoustic data collection with all the reading of utterances in our language in order to develop natural language processing tools.
So that's how I met Oiwi and then he contacted Keoni Mahelona, who is my partner, and then that's how I got here. Yeah, after writing a couple of paragraphs around what I could possibly bring to the table, knowing that this is about participation but also sharing our expertise, experience and what knowledge and skills that we bring to complement designing a solution for a problem we all share as Indigenous people.
I'm often mindful that we get invited as Indigenous people to Indigenous conferences that are organized by non-Indigenous people. So my expectation was that this was being organized by Indigenous people, so I think the level of participation that you're quite happy to be part of when it's a hui, or a workshop or a meeting that is organized by people that are from communities similar to yourselves, then you think, well they understand the context of colonization, white assimilation in a in socio-economic background and place that affords us as Indigenous people, and quite often it's at the bottom of the heap. So I was looking at it as a way to secure a place for ourselves, my tribe, my tribes, you know—my people, in the future, in the digital future.
Because as far as I'm concerned I don't just think about how AI can be used, I think about how we can be the makers of AI and how do we secure economic opportunity for our people in the future, so that when we deal with open source and all that that offers us, we deal with it with our eyes wide open, knowing that these are the skills and expertise that we need to apply open source code or whatever.
Let's face it: most of our people are not in a position of privilege that affords them those skills and expertise, so open source is good for white privilege.
But what does open source amongst Indigenous communities look like? How do we share ideas, concepts with a level of integrity and trust that you only have with other Indigenous people?
When we look at the artificial simulation of human intelligence we're mindful that that operates a great deal of the time on the data that it is fed for training, computer modeling and all that type of behavior that we expect it to perform relatively well at.
If we look at the jail. For Maori people, we make up more than 50% of the jail population yet we are only 15% of the wider population.
Quite often a reason for that is described as racism or racial profiling but if we look at the other Pacific peoples that are in our wider population in Aotearoa, New Zealand, we can see that only 11% of the jail population is actually made up of other non-Maori Polynesian or Pacific Island people. So then that suggests something quite different.
We know that most of our people at least have a first or second degree relative that has either been to jail or is in jail. So when we talk about law enforcement and AI we're mindful that, what are the risks there that we need to be mindful of. Data, if it's being mined or if it's being categorized or if it's being curated in a way for law enforcement, needs to take into account that that data is biased.
We know that white people get let off for crimes that our people get sent to jail for and so that's a risk that we've identified. But along with it comes, along with AI, comes a lot of opportunity.
If we were to think about natural language processing tools, if we were to think about the important part that we place on language retention and the acquisition of our languages and our culture, we know that that sort of data is captured in our written text. It's also captured in the stories that we tell, intergenerationally amongst our people through speaking our language.
So if we were to synthesize a voice or if we were to develop voice to text, text to voice, or even voice to voice, what does that open up in terms of opportunity for cultural and language intergenerational transmission in today's day and age?
So whilst there are risks, we can't run away from the opportunities. Because as people that have been alienated from our culture, we now have an opportunity to sometimes revive things that we have lost as part of the colonization process.
So I think working with other Indigenous people that have similar problems, we come up with a solution or a series of solutions that we can then pick from, knowing that we trust other Indigenous people because they've gone through a similar traumatic experience to ourselves.
I mean, imagine if we could automatically transcribe Maori language audio in real time and the traditional knowledge we could unlock from there?
Our extensive native speaker collection that we have at our iwi radio station, I'm the general manager for my tribal broadcasting media hub, if you think about all the traditional knowledge, the medicines, the foods. We talk about food security, we talk about restoring the water ways, what sort of plants grew down a specific water way. We talk about the ocean, we talk about the mountain, we talk about the forest, the birds and all the animals that are part of our landscape. And when we think about natural language processing tools and using that as a way to mine our own data for the purposes of revival, maintenance, preservation, promotion and growth of our language and culture, it opens up so many amazing opportunities and that excites me.
I think that we naturally gravitate towards people that have shared problems and what I'd like to see come out of this is us to be able to at least group our shared priorities.
I'm very optimistic in terms of what we can achieve and you can hear that we're talking about the environment, we're talking about our landscape, we're talking about our language, we're talking about our culture. We're talking about data security and data storage.
We store our data in our song and dance. We store our data in the way that we cook. We store our data in the way that we perform oratory. We store our data in the way that we welcome people and we store our data in the way that we farewell people.
But in the modern age how are we going to store our data being mindful that we do not live like we traditionally used to?
I grew up with our grandmother, our grandmother's sisters, our uncles and aunties, our mother and father. Our cousins were like our brothers and sisters. But now our families are growing up with a mum and a dad in a western context. So how can we use artificial intelligence to simulate the way in which our families are connected and the way that we transmit inter- and intra-generationally? Because I think that's a big part of our shared problem, is we are now displaced from the places we are most connected to.
So how do we reconnect ourselves without observing the community and starting to participate in it?
I think that we've got to be mindful that we have to enable development and innovation. We should be protective of our data, we have every right to be. We have a responsibility to protect our data. But with the protection also comes the role to promote and grow and we cannot promote and grow if we are going to constantly live in fear.
So I think what we have here today, and yesterday, is a group of people that are ready to risk it all, and we know that people that are ready to risk it all are going to be leaders.
They're going to be leaders that take these concepts and new ideas back to our communities so that we can take hold of these opportunities and when we do that we know that we're going to be moving with our brothers and sisters. And I think there is a level of security and when we can offer that back as a report to the communities, the Indigenous communities that we come from, we can then seek the ongoing endorsement and support. Because it's not about us making the decision on behalf of our people, it's about us taking these ideas back to our people and seeing if they're ready to engage.
And I think that the time is now and I think that this workshop couldn't have brought together more passionate people that are related and very entrenched in their own Indigenous communities and development and innovation, cultural and language preservation and very much connected to the landscape.
So I'd just like to say kia ora, thank you for inviting me, but most of all thank you for allowing us to share and receive, of course, the offerings from our brothers and sisters from other Indigenous parts of the world. Kia ora mai ano tātou.
Peter Lucas Jones of Te Aupouri, Ngai Takoto, Te Rarawa, and Ngāti Kahu descent, is the General Manager of Te Hiku Media
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.
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