Note — May 02, 2021

Stop Talking About AI Ethics. It’s Time to Talk About Power.

Karen Hao with an article and interview with Kate Crawford about her new book, Atlas of AI. Quite interesting because the story of the book and the work that preceded it is basically a sequence of deeper and deeper investigations. Starting from Artificial Intelligence and ethics, Crawford proceeds to data, to the labour that produced it, to the construction of the devices and infrastructure, the resources (and again, labour), and ultimately the power and its concentration into extraordinarily few hands.

I wanted to really open up this understanding of AI as neither artificial nor intelligent. It’s the opposite of artificial. It comes from the most material parts of the Earth’s crust and from human bodies laboring, and from all of the artifacts that we produce and say and photograph every day. Neither is it intelligent. I think there’s this great original sin in the field, where people assumed that computers are somehow like human brains and if we just train them like children, they will slowly grow into these supernatural beings. […]

We’ve spent far too much time focusing on narrow tech fixes for AI systems and always centering technical responses and technical answers. Now we have to contend with the environmental footprint of the systems. We have to contend with the very real forms of labor exploitation that have been happening in the construction of these systems. […]

In that sense, this book is trying to de-center tech and starting to ask bigger questions around: What sort of world do we want to live in?