AI decolonial Manyfesto

AI decolonial Manyfesto

This manyfesto is a provocation, a question, an opening, a dance about a future of AI technologies that is decolonial. We call it manyfesto, since it reflects some visions among many, and we hope to invite exchange, conversation, and the development of statements from people affected by AI technology.

We begin with the challenge posed by the language we use to talk about AI: language that has emerged, as much of the technology has, dominated by Western male voices, whiteness, and wealth. We seek to uncover, to question, upend, and reinvent the assumptions underlying this language, even as we use it.

“Artificial” and “intelligence” are loaded terms, their definitions subject to cultural biases. AI is a technology, a science, a business, a knowledge system, a set of narratives, of relationships, an imaginary. Across each facet, our effort is to undo the colonial erasure of non-Western ways of being and knowing. The word “decoloniality,” too, resonates differently in different communities, including with Indigenous peoples and those for whom colonialism is not a history but a present reality. Some reject the term decolonial in this context. We acknowledge both its use and its rejection.

We do not seek consensus: we value human difference. We reject the idea that any one framework could rule globally. We reject the Western-normative language of “ethical” AI and suggestions of “inclusivity” that do not destabilize current patterns of domination and address power asymmetries. We reject as half-measures any principles meant to tweak, reinforce, and whitewash the status quo, merely blunting its devastation. They fail to acknowledge how the social and the technical are interwoven, and technologies have immaterial as well as material impacts over specific gendered, racialized bodies and territories. Decoloniality rejects the divorcing of the material and immaterial, of feeling from being, knowing, doing or living.

Notions of decolonial governances will emerge from community and situated contexts, questioning what currently constitutes hegemonic narratives. Decolonialilty is not merely diversity and inclusion; removing the echoes of coloniality in AI will require reparations for present and past material and epistemic injustice and dispossession. These reinventions of AI governance will acknowledge the expertise that comes from lived experience, and create new pathways to make it possible for those who have historically been marginalized to have the opportunity to decide and build their own dignified socio-technical futures. Decolonial governance will recognize, in a way that Western-centric governance structures historically have not, how our destinies are intertwined. We owe each other our mutual futures.

Our humanity is relational, defined by how we are tied to one another. Technology has an important role in those relationships. Creation, art, stories and sensitive experience are some of the paths that we must explore in order to foster the decolonial imagination. We seek to center the engineering, design, knowledge-production, and dispute-resolution practices of diverse cultures, which are embedded with their own value systems.

Our urgency arises from humans’ capacity to use AI as a knowledge system to create irrefutable “algorithmic truths” to reinforce domination. In doing so, other systems of knowledge production and other visions are denied and erased, as are other peoples’ agency, autonomy, and contestation. In this way AI coloniality extends beyond data colonialism: AI implies material extractivism, and the use of AI has the capacity to shape reality. Designed in an unequal society, these systems can be employed to reproduce those inequalities. Built with an emphasis on efficiency rather than dignity, they can do irreparable harm. In insisting on a decolonial AI, we stand for the right of each historically marginalized community to reshape reality on their terms.

Our methods will evolve, sensitive to needs and opportunities, but our aim is to create and hold a resonant forum for learning and exchange from and between voices silenced by colonialist structures and the coloniality in force through socio-technical systems.