Brief response to essay, 'Blackfella boxes', on Aeon.co.

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Daniel V.
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Brief response to essay, 'Blackfella boxes', on Aeon.co.

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Brief response to essay, 'Blackfella boxes', on Aeon.co.

Link to essay at Aeon.co

My response exceeded the word limit at Aeon so I've posted it here.

The essay basically addresses the relationship potentials of Indigenous Knowledge and Artificial Intelligence. I thought the following list of attributes from, 'What Does Indigenous Knowledge Mean? A Compilation of Attributes' would serve as a quick primer for whoever may need it. I comment on these also but must note that I am not sure if the authors of the essay at Aeon are in accordance with these attributes.

Link to 'What Does Indigenous Knowledge Mean? A Compilation of Attributes'
. . . .

Indigenous knowledge is:
"Adaptive. It is based on historical experiences but adapts to social, economic, environmental, spiritual and political changes. Adaptation is the key to survival."
In AI all information is neutral and anything 'historical' would be based on statistics models. All the AI could do is provide a comparative overview of historical/current, or for that matter, indigenous/migratory. A decision would still have to be made by users/programmers as to which analysis of that overview is the most appropriate to whatever task is at hand. Of course, concerns will arise from different parties as to 'who is at the analysis wheel' and if consequential biases are being programmed into the AI making it not neutral. Examples of those biases would be statistically arrived at penalties whether minor or major for infractions of law. Don't think 'Robocop' or 'Exterminator' machines, think human assessments/decisions replaced by AI statistics. Already being done to some extent but thankfully nothing yet to where we'd have to call Sarah Connor. :-)
"Cumulative. It is a body of knowledge and skills developed from centuries of living in close proximity to nature."
We already have a body of knowledge and skills developed from millennia of living IN nature. As the population grew and more numbers occupied nature then the focus gradually shifted from the undefined awareness of nature to the more defined human interaction with it. An example of this would be the transition from hunter-gatherer to agrarian. The hunter-gatherer did indeed have to define some things in terms of survival but he had not yet reached the control of definition such as the agrarian began to do in terms of the environment. The hunter-gatherer's control was random, the agrarian's intent was a fixed control. The agrarian intent is still in evidence and has led growing populations over time to interactions with the environment. Even if distantly, the agrarian intent/premise facilitated science and AI.
"Dynamic. It is not rooted in a particular point in history but has developed, adapted, and grown over millennia; it is not static."
Same as previous. Adaptations, developments, and growth have always been historically questioned as to by 'whom' and for 'what' resulting in a patchwork of compromise. Sometimes the patches are good, sometimes just a lot of frayed duct-tape. And let us not forget that for some dispositions altruism is not always a component of progress.
"Holistic. All aspects of life are interconnected, are not considered in isolation but as a part of the whole. The world is believed to be an integral whole. Indigenous knowledge incorporates all aspects of life - spirituality, history, cultural practices, social interactions, language, healing."
Humankind has been incorporating - out of sheer necessity - for some time now and it is what has given us our current 'civilization. The report card is not looking too good nowadays and many blame forced incorporation for it especially in 'social interactions'. Of course, that has resulted in groups that can't - or won't - relate to other groups' indigenousness. Is there hope for better incorporation? Time will tell.
"Humble. Indigenous knowledge does not dictate how to control nature but how to live in harmony with the gifts of the Creator."
As Scooby might have said: "Ruh-roh!". Are we talking fundamentalist humble or atheist humble? Better program that AI for long Walkabouts because it's going to need them to figure all of it out - if ever. Whether indigenous or not, humbleness runs a tight race with survival.
"Intergenerational. The collective memory is passed, within a community, from one generation to the next orally through language, stories, songs, ceremonies, legends, and proverbs."
If it can be accessed on their 'smartphones' and they can swipe and delete merrily, then yeah as long as it doesn't take too much time measured in seconds. Collective memory? There are those who are still hung up on the American Civil War 157 years after the fact. Or how about the fascination with Nazarene carpentry? The list goes on. The best we can hope for is that collective memory advances rather than drags on progress.
"Invaluable. It has been argued that Indigenous knowledge, not capital, is the key to sustainable social and economic development. There is a growing recognition and respect for IK and a desire to collaborate with Indigenous communities on environmental monitoring projects."
That argument, especially about capital, is going to be around for a long time. When IK helps everyone to pay the bills then you can be sure of an increase in recognizing and incorporating it. I think even in the indigenous community a percentage of them would not dismiss capital. It's just too hooked-up with everything. Dare I say that some in the indigenous communities would regard the 'old ways' as a type of existential melancholy serving no real purpose.
"Irreplaceable. There is nothing western science can do to replace or replicate Indigenous knowledge. An aspect of Indigenous knowledge that is sometimes overlooked by scientists, and others, is the critical connection between IK and language. Indigenous languages are in decline and as languages die, so goes the Indigenous knowledge that is part of that language and the collective memory of the speakers of that language."
Yes, it's known as making way for the new. Is it unfortunate that some IK is being lost? Yes, but for many it's all about existential immediacy — and it's management thereof — which rules the day. They may revere the 'old ways' but they also regard them as a type of existential melancholy. Even great civilizations have come to be regarded thusly and no one, except maybe the most specialized of dispositions, talks about the good ol' says or Rome, Athens, Egypt, etc.
"Moral. There is a morality in Indigenous knowledge - a right and wrong way to interact with nature; there is a responsibility given from the Creator to respect the natural world."
Another Scooby moment. But here is something:

“Here is your country. Cherish these natural wonders, cherish the natural resources, cherish the history and romance as a sacred heritage, for your children and your children's children. Do not let selfish men or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance.”
― Theodore Roosevelt

Nice words. But Roosevelt was also regarded as a white supremacist by some and misunderstood by others. Morals are complicated and often switch between the engine and caboose.
"Non-linear. Time, patterns, migrations and movements of animals are cyclical."
Already understood even by those who don't want to understand. Sun goes up, sun goes down. And those that say it's really the earth revolving, well, they're just weird. :-)
"Observant. Since Creation, Indigenous leaders have observed their environment and made decisions for their community’s well-being based on those observations. But their decisions also weighed what would be best for the community seven generations in the future."
Leaders from everywhere have done these observations and made decisions thereof. Some were good decisions, some were lousy. Some IK-based decisions could indeed be helpful but there is nothing that says those decisions are always going to be better. History attests to bad decisions made by indigenous people everywhere.
"Relative. Indigenous knowledge is not embodied at the same degree by all community members. Elders will obviously carry more knowledge than younger community members."
Understood. The wisdom of experience through time. But here again echoing the previous quote, an elder's knowledge is not a guarantee of wisdom across the board.
"Responsible. Indigenous Peoples generally believe they are responsible for the well-being of the natural environment around them."
Yes, but only if the natural environment provides well-being in return. If there was a drought, diminishment of game herds, of resources, and other factors where increasingly there was no benefit to tribes/individuals then they simply moved on to better territory. Migrations can cherish the past but cannot dwell on past responsibilities. One step forward-three steps back, tends to slow down things in the march of progress.
"Unique. Indigenous knowledge is unique to a given culture or society. While there may be many similarities of IK between communities, it is the lived experience of each community that informs IK."
Experience is a sliding scale. Globally
"Valid. It does not require the validation of western science."
If we're talking an AI/IK hybrid paradigm, then that's going to be a complicated stance. Whomever you may be, wherever you hail from, scientific validation of some sort will be necessary along the way. Otherwise, you could end up with a lot of people thinking science is the liberal Devil's work. :-)

---------------

From the essay:

"More seriously, though, self-determination for all communities in the near future is going to involve being able to assert some kind of data sovereignty. Our contribution of a ‘blackfella box’ protocol (always with a human in the loop) might prove useful as AI and the Internet of Things increasingly affect our communities’ ability to maintain sovereignty, privacy and wellbeing."__ Aeon essay authors

I can see a measure of demarcation being helpful , but some will just regard that as an isolated premise and thus of isolated value; even some indigenous segments themselves will regard it as such. Sovereignty, privacy, well-being, those are all well-known talking points. The world population will be around 8 billion by the end of this year-beginning of 2023 and with numbers like that all those talking points are going to have a major overhaul; we can already see early signs of that.

"Indigenous protocols are numerous, diverse, culturally specific and interconnected. They sit within the Lore, within the Law, within the land. The land is sentient and agentic, and every protocol is like a synaptic connection in the neural processes of Country and First People as one. This is true deep learning, if you care to step outside and upload something real."

Everyone is deep-learning even if they don't realize it. If the idea of the 'subconscious' holds true, then in the majority of situations then humankind' is doing the best it can with the better superficial choices. By the way, will AI have a subconscious engendered on its own or due to our unawareness that to construct the superficial provides the possibility of a subconscious filed? Now that would a wacky topic to discuss! For the time being, just be aware of downloads, uploads, and the time when you don't have to concern yourself with either. :-)

"And that’s why we’re here, as Aboriginal thinkers curious about how our own traditional knowledge systems might guide the evolution of AI. If left unchecked, AI poses existential threats to environmental stability, sovereignty, finance and more. Chances are, then, that the inhuman measures imposed on marginalised communities could also find their way to your doorstep one day. You might want to figure out how you’ll deal with your own colonisation when it comes. Trust us when we tell you that, when your entire world is taken away from you, human protocols are what keep you going."

Aren't we all Aboriginal thinkers to some degree? Hey, it's a trick question. :-)

The people that are formulating the progress of AI have all been guided by their interpretation of traditional knowledge in many ways. The stated aim is to make life better but as can be seen by the effects of the simple computer introduced to the public some decades ago many will say it has made life worse. Watch 'Existentialism and the Internet' as an example of this.

At this stage of development AI can only systematize social information but it cannot yet introduce anything fundamentally new about it. Technology has certainly altered many of our socio-psychological premises but nowhere near where old, even ancient, biases are eclipsed and less so the millennia-long adherence to them by segments of the population. At this time, AI is basically the best and most effective bookkeeper around. If the day comes when AI can turn that bottom-line from red to black - for everyone - then we'll have a truly revolutionary and beneficial synthesis of technology and humankind.

I think the indigenous knowledge of people everywhere is a beautiful thing that should be remembered and from which we can benefit. But I'm also aware of the overall indigenousness of our planet in the scheme of the cosmos. How many planets and beings have come and gone in the universe and we know nothing about them, about their indigenous knowledge? Maybe when the Walkabout is extended to light-years then we may get some answers.

Since the authors use some movie references then I leave them with one:

"This is the way it's been done for billions of years. . . Small moves. . . small moves"

I wish the essay's authors well in their endeavor.

Daniel V.
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