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The Whiteness of AI

Academic Journal article by Stephen Cave, Kanta Dihal

The Whiteness of AI. Philos. Technol. (2020).

Abstract: This paper focuses on the fact that AI is predominantly portrayed as white—in colour, ethnicity, or both. We first illustrate the prevalent Whiteness of real and imagined intelligent machines in four categories: humanoid robots, chatbots and virtual assistants, stock images of AI, and portrayals of AI in film and television. We then offer three interpretations of the Whiteness of AI, drawing on critical race theory, particularly the idea of the White racial frame. First, we examine the extent to which this Whiteness might simply reflect the predominantly White milieus from which these artefacts arise. Second, we argue that to imagine machines that are intelligent, professional, or powerful is to imagine White machines because the White racial frame ascribes these attributes predominantly to White people. Third, we argue that AI racialised as White allows for a full erasure of people of colour from the White utopian imaginary. Finally, we examine potential consequences of the racialisation of AI, arguing it could exacerbate bias and misdirect concern.
Overall, I construe race, racialization, and racial identities as on-going sets of political relations that require, through constant perpetuation via institutions, discourses, practices, desires, infrastructures, languages, technologies, sciences, economies, dreams, and cultural artefacts, the barring of nonwhite subjects from the category of the human as it is performed in the modern west.

Alexander G. Weheliye (Weheliye 2014, 2)
Technology as an abstract concept functions as a white mythology.

Joel Dinerstein (Dinerstein 2006, 570)

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