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'The Iwi Algorithm' - Creating cultural capital with AI

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

The ability for Artificial Intelligence to strengthen Aotearoa’s cultural capital will be a challenge set down at AI Day 2019 and will put a spotlight on how technology can support people and society as a whole.

The presentation by Te Aroha Grace, Innovation Officer at Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei, will focus on how Artificial Intelligence can combine values of different cultures to grow the mana and brand of Aotearoa and not just focus on commercial gain from advances in technology.

His work with Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei involves the creation of an Iwi Algorithm to help all New Zealanders prioritise cultural value resulting from AI and other platforms, as the starting point for all other decisions.

Te Aroha says there is a danger that AI will move down the capitalist path, when it could be used first to generate social, environmental and cultural capital:

"The opportunity we have from AI is to look after people, society and our environment. This is an alternative view, to support indigenous mana to create uniqueness for Aotearoa.

"We could just leave AI to become a commercial and capitalist tool but this would ignore our internationally famous cultural capital in Aotearoa that’s been recognised by world leaders such as Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Microsoft head Satya Nadella.

"Being different won’t come by trying to be the same as everyone else and mimic how other countries are considering AI and its value. In Aotearoa we have the chance to use this technology to look primarily after our people and country, in order to generate other success as a result. Approach this the other way around and we will copy the capitalist mistakes of the past."

The Iwi algorithm is designed to feed from current generated data to achieve a human or environmental result to ensure the long term sustainability and well-being of New Zealand can be on everyone’s agenda.

His comments come two months before the well-being budget that he calls a western approach to an indigenous concept.

"Take GDP for example, which has always been a great metric but it doesn’t measure dignified GDP - it’s just a hard statistic. The well-being budget is a huge step, but it’s just one step to achieving growth in measurable cultural value," he says.

Part of our current challenge is a lack of appreciation for what Māori cultural value is:

"In Aotearoa everyone needs more education and understanding about this. Visitors to our country appreciate it, shown by 70% of foreigners visiting a marae, compared to only 17% of New Zealanders.

"We have an opportunity to learn from our past, combine it with the benefits of technology now, to create a better future for our land, to deliver benefits for generations to come. We are on the cusp of an age of truth where information can bring benefits to all, as opposed to information and technology bringing commercial benefits to a few," he says.

Producer of the conference, Justin Flitter, says the purpose of AI Day 2019 is to consider how the prolific development in artificial intelligence is impacting business, people and society.

"Te Aroha’s presentation will bring a whole new perspective to the debate about artificial intelligence and its specific value to New Zealand. We are at the beginning of the AI age, so balancing the cultural value alongside the commercial one is vital."

AI Day 2019 will be followed by seven workshops at AUT on 3-4 April, giving attendees the chance to dive deep into demonstrations, case studies and detailed discussion, and a hackfest on 6-7 April where 25 teams will develop and pitch "AI for Earth" concepts.

For a full schedule and tickets to attend AI Day 2019 go to

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