Dominant Cultural Codes

I see this as a call to rewrite dominant cultural codes rather than simply to code-switch. It is a call to embed new values and new social relations into the world.49 Whereas code-switching is about fitting in and “leaning in” to play a game created by others, perhaps what we need more of is to stretch out the arenas in which we live and work to become more inclusive and just.

If, as Cathy O’Neil writes, “Big Data processes codify the past. They do not invent the future. Doing that requires moral imagination, and that’s something only humans can provide,”50 then what we need is greater investment in socially just imaginaries. This, I think, would have to entail a socially conscious approach to tech development that would require prioritizing equity over efficiency, social good over market imperatives. Given the importance of training sets in machine learning, another set of interventions would require designing computer programs from scratch and training AI “like a child,”51 so as to make us aware of social biases.

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The key is that all this takes time and intention, which runs against the rush to innovate that pervades the ethos of tech marketing campaigns. But, if we are not simply “users” but people committed to building a more just society, it is vital that we demand a slower and more socially conscious innovation. The nonprofit AI research company Open AI says, as a practical model for this approach, that it will stop competing and start assisting another project if it is value-aligned and safety- conscious, because continuing to compete usually short changes



“adequate safety precautions” and, I would add, justice concerns.