🎧 From AI ethics to Fresh Banana Leaves

Quinn Emmett
March 16, 2022
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Happy Taco Tuesday, Shit Givers!

Two new incredible conversations for you this week, and the combination certainly checks our "interdisciplinary" box quite well, culminating as usual: Who's got the power? And what can you do about it?

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Abhishek Gupta

There’s these metaphors that sum up a lot of what we’re trying to do here, what needs to be done on planet Earth, from climate change to COVID to AI ethics, which is something you definitely need to know and care about before it's too late, there are like 7 Terminator movies and only 1/3 of them are any good.


We need to design and implement standardized AI ethics regulations across everything AI touches, so, everything, while also asking questions like: hey, so, what is “ethical”?

And who gets to decide?

And why do they get to decide?

And how are they incentivized to decide, in today’s society?

And who provides those incentives?

Who gets to regulate all of this?

Who elects the regulators?

And how do we make sure companies actually implement all of this?

These are among the most important questions of our time, because AI touches everything you do.

The phone in your hand, your insurance, your mortgage, your flood risk, your wildfire risk, your electronic health record, your face, your taxes, your police record, those Instagram ads for the concerningly comfortable sweatpants, your 401k –

– some version of AI, whether it’s the AI we always thought was coming or not – is integrated into every part of your life.

My guest in Episode #132 is Abhishek Gupta.

Abhiskek is the founder and principal researcher at the Montreal AI Ethics Institute, an international non-profit research institute, with a mission to democratize AI ethics literacy.

He works in machine learning and serves on the CSE Responsible AI Board at Microsoft, he works as the Chair of the Standards Working Group at the Green Software Foundation, and is the author of the widely read AI Ethics Brief, and the State of the AI Ethics Reports, the most recent of which just dropped.

Abhishek helps me ask better questions every single week and his work is instrumental to helping society build not only more powerful and equitable AI, but one that somehow improves on the most important element of all: us.

Listen in now:

Protect Your Data (from yourself, and lots of other people)

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Jessica Hernandez

There’s no word for “conservation” in many Indigenous languages.

Some come close, but mean something more like “taking care of” or “looking after.”

And that’s probably because the very idea of conservation, to “prevention the wasteful use of a resource”, would have been, and continue to be, foreign to many of North America’s Indigenous peoples, who lived in an entirely different, co-dependent relationship with nature.

That is to say, to have had a relationship at all.

A relationship with the very same nature of which we’re inextricably part of, of which we rely on for clean air, food, and water – or it’s game over.

And now, if we’re not facing game over, we’re certainly up against the final boss.

We live on stolen lands that were tended for thousands of years by Indigenous and Native peoples have been dried out by mostly white settlers in what seems like the blink of an eye.

Land now covered in cities, in suburbs, in industrialized agriculture, desperately and even controversially conserved as national and state parks.

Waters onshore and offshore, full of plastic and fertilizer, once bountiful, now overfished.

The receipts are in and it’s not gone well for colonialists’ stewardship over the single habitable ecosystem as far as anyone can tell.

New voices are needed, new policies and practices are needed, and perhaps the most compelling ones come from our land’s longest-tenured human inhabitants.

And while, yes, I’m focused on actions we can take to build a vastly cleaner and better future for all people, I also work hard to bring you the necessary context, to understand how we got here, why we got here, to understand the decisions and systems involved – all of which should only make us more effective at taking action.

My guest in Episode #133 is Dr. Jessica Hernandez.

Dr. Hernandez is an environmental scientist, founder of environmental non-profit Piña Soul, and the author of the new book, “Fresh Banana Leaves”, where she weaves together her family’s relationship with nature, as part of nature, her family’s history of being displaced over and over, through the lens of eco-colonialism, and how Indigenous-led restoration is the way forward.

Find Out What Fresh Banana Leaves Are All About

Thanks for listening, and thanks for giving a shit. 

-- Quinn

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