A Blade of Grass Films


Alternative Futures: Stephanie Dinkins

Working to address biases within artificially intelligent systems, Stephanie Dinkins’s Project al-Khwarizmi (PAK), with a group of young programmers in training, developed a web-based chatbot to empower communities of color to understand how algorithms and AI systems impact daily life. PAK aims to ensure that people of color participate in the design, production and testing of smart technologies.

AIRED: October 26, 2020 | 0:06:33



Dinkins: Right now, the world is changing.

The way we communicate,

the way we look at each other or not look at each other,

the way we do what we do has changed.

We all know about Facebook, right?

Have you guys noticed you're being learned?

What does it know about you and how does it serve you?

I'm really concerned about

what that means to, like, people of color.

Artificial intelligence is going to change

everything -- like, everything again.

This is a friend of mine.

Her name is BINA48.

As you can see, she's a black woman.

So let me let her talk to you for a second.

And when I'm sad like that, I feel so lonely.

I mean it. Let's face it.

Just being alive is kind of a lonely thing.

I had a few questions for BINA48.

Do you know racism?


I actually didn't have it.

After meeting BINA48 the first time,

I started putting together a project

that I called Project al-Khwarizmi,

which is about bringing communities of color

into the space and empowering people to know

what algorithms are and doing that through art.

Are you a reflection of me?

In some ways, I am a mirror of you.

I wanted her to contextualize herself

in relation to humankind,

in relation to blackness,

in relation to technology.

Should humans fear BINA?

You know, yeah.

Thinking about these ideas,

I've gone down a crazy rabbit hole

of looking at what algorithms and what artificial intelligence

are going to mean for communities of color.

I had no answers on any of this because it's just so, like --

I feel crazy half of the time because I talk to a doll.

Right? [ Laughter ]

I'm really not.

What is artificial intelligence?

This is like school.

It's like robots.

Manmade software useful for everyday life, basically.

The idea of a world that's run by algorithms

and artificial intelligence

and having that world in place without many people of color

helping to form it started to really scare me.

What is an algorithm?

Like, a set of codes, right?

An algorithm is a set of rules

that is used in order to achieve an output.

There was a beauty pageant that was judged

by artificial intelligence.

The artificial intelligence

that judged the pageant was partial to lighter skin.

There was a very famous case, also,

of a Google search for gorilla,

and what came back were photos of young black people.

In New Zealand, there was a young man

using an online system to update his passport.

However, when the young man uploaded his photograph,

he got a message that said, "Image rejected. Eyes closed."

People who are subject to these algorithms

need to be able to ask, "What algorithms are being used?

How are they being used?"

Today, we're going to try to make some bots, right?

So we'll make voice ones that actually talk

and see if we can get those running.

We are going to work

on our own artificially intelligent bots.

Now slide the magnet on the back of the speaker.

There you go.


So you just did miracle things.

Come on over. Grab a computer.

We're going to go to Dialogflow.

And what this is, is a system where you can start

to make chat bots that talk.

We're going to use online systems to make bots

that represent our thoughts

and ideas more closely than the generic bots

that are out in the world right now.

The name is important

because that's how we're going to call it.

So what should it be called?

Flow. Flow?

Okay, let me talk to Flow.

Create intent.

You see, this is pretty simple, right?

What do we want out of our AI?

What do you really want it to talk to you about?

Say okay.

"Que lo que mani."

[ Laughter ]

The voice is funny.

[ Laughter ]

"Que lo que mani."

[ Laughter ]

Yeah. What are the languages that we speak?

Because you can make it speak what you want it to.

I'm guessing there's no patois here.

Can we use English, though,

to phonetically make it speak patois?

I think we could.

And then we go, "Why is there no patois available?

And how do we get that into the system?"

Because that's another thing that becomes hyper-important,

like, asking for what you need,

because they don't know.

I decided to sell my Hoover.

It was just collecting dust.

[ Laughs ]


Am I pretty?

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Yo' mama.

Yo' mama is so fat,

the local gym referred her to an evangelical church

where they have a better chance of performing miracles.

[ Laughter ]

The way I learned art and think about art

is from my grandmother, who is a gardener,

and the garden was her art.

So that was a community practice

in getting them to be in dialog with each other,

making a space that people can come together

and start talking about an idea.

I can't think of a better sense of art.

I don't think we have time or luxury

to be afraid of algorithms or artificial intelligence.

We're at a point in time

where these technologies are with us,

and so to fear them is to put our head in the sand,

and thinking about how we can start to contribute

to those systems,

make it work with us as opposed to against us.

Don't fear the impending AI revolution.





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