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Context Erasure of AI

Real-world impact of the artificial intelligence industry

Context has many definitions, yet it can be the parts of a discourse that surround a word or passage and can throw light on its meaning. Throwing light on the meaning of AI is not necessarily a forward or easy activity in many ways when it comes to the direct or immediate effects of the implementation that occurs. Then if we considers all beyond the immediate deployment — the backend, the non-place or immateriality things starts to get muddled.

“digital sovereignty” that encourages decentralized and community-owned data-governance mechanisms.

It is also argued that India has an opposition between domestic industrialists and policymakers versus the large Silicon Valley tech giants described as “data colonizers”.

“Growing research on the locally specific real-world impact of the AI industry on countries in the global South makes visible these contexts and the lived human conditions behind the technology and data.”

It is argued that abstracting “colonialism” can allow co-opting of narrow economic interests.

“Indigenous communities have been at the forefront of resisting harms caused by data abstraction.”

Census information and population counts has been used against local population: “…function as a core feature of settler-colonial governance, feeding massive amounts of abstracted data into digital systems.”

The term “Indigenous data sovereignty” (ID-Sov) is generally defined as “the right of a nation to govern the collection, ownership, and application of its own data.”

Data sovereignty is used by several sides in an argument.

“the twin problems of a lack of reliable data and information on indigenous peoples and biopiracy and misuse of their traditional knowledge and cultural heritage.”

One important aspect is that advocacy groups are establishing sovereignty and ownership protocols at the level of data and analysis.


Crawford, Kate, Roel Dobbe, Theodora Dryer, Genevieve Fried, Ben Green, Elizabeth Kaziunas, Amba Kak, Varoon Mathur, Erin McElroy, Andrea Nill Sánchez, Deborah Raji, Joy Lisi Rankin, Rashida Richardson, Jason Schultz, Sarah Myers West, and Meredith Whittaker. AI Now 2019 Report. New York: AI Now Institute, 2019,

AI Policy and Ethics at Student at University of Copenhagen MSc in Social Data Science. All views are my own.