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Making Kin with the Machines

Jason Edward Lewis

In this episode of ‘Are You A Robot?’, Jason Edward Lewis joins us to discuss how indigenous peoples might relate to AI technology. He also raises questions about what relationship we want to build with robots. Jason is co-founder at Indigenous Protocols and Artificial Intelligence Working Group and Professor of Computation Arts at Concordia University.

It is clear that Jason strongly believes we need to question how we want to treat robots. AI technology is feeling more human; we can literally talk to our machines, by asking Alexa to turn on the lights, or Siri about the weather. We interact with our machines as if they’re human. Even the names given to this technology emphasises this.

It might be quite hard to even imagine treating robots like our equals. History and present day shows that Black and Indigenous people have not been treated like humans. Animals aren’t treated as equals, either. Jason stresses that it is vital that we do it better from the beginning and think about how we want to treat robots. It is still unclear as to how this type of AI will develop in the future, and what exactly we want from robots. But if we’re to build robots with sentiments, it is important we think about this now.

“Part of their education needs to be about the fact that there are different ways of living in the world.”

Different people might even have different relationships with robots. Whilst some people might see them purely as a tool, others might not. Jason explains that in some indigenous cultures, a relationship is formed with everything and every object. They will have a different relationship to these machines. Therefore, we need to understand the wide range of different encounters when designing these machines.

How do you see our relations with robots? Are they kin or strictly just tools? Join the conversation in our Slack community and let us know what you think!

What are your thoughts? Join our Slack channel and join the conversation!