Mona Sloane is a sociologist working on inequality in the context of AI design and policy. She frequently publishes and speaks about AI, ethics, equitability and policy in a global context. Mona is a Future Imagination Collaboratory (FIC) Fellow, and an Adjunct Professor at NYU’s Tandon School of Engineering. Mona works with NYU Vice-Provost Charlton McIlwain on building NYU’s new Alliance for Public Interest Technology and also is a Fellow with NYU’s Institute for Public Knowledge (IPK), where she convenes the ‘Co-Opting AI’ series and co-curates the ‘The Shift’ series. She is also affiliated with The GovLab in New York and with Public Books where she curates the Technology section. Mona’s most recent project is ’Terra Incognita: Mapping NYC’s New Digital Public Spaces in the COVID-19 Outbreak’ which she leads as principal investigator. Mona holds a PhD from the London School of Economics and Political Science and has completed fellowships at the University of California, Berkeley, and at the University of Cape Town. Follow her on Twitter @mona_sloane.
*This Is Not a Drill*
AI, Art and the Climate Emergency
Today, almost 70 years after Alan Turing famously asked, “Can machines think?,” what we call “artificial intelligence,” or AI, has seemingly come to penetrate our everyday life. It is in our phones, our homes, our workplaces, our modes of transportation, our schools, our welfare system. AI is undeniably capturing the imagination of governments, corporations, and individuals alike: we fear the robot take-over, are worried about falling behind in the “global AI race”, are smitten by the new innovations AI may bring, or the opportunities it may create.
But we are also seeing more and more evidence that demystifies the account that AI is de facto neutral and shows that existing power imbalances, inequalities, and cultures of discrimination are mirrored and exacerbated by automated systems. These are warranted concerns that are increasingly addressed through the idea of “ethical”, “human-centric” or “fair” AI. Many of these efforts are important interventions. But what falls outside of their frame is the most existential threat we currently face as a planetary community: the climate emergency.
We need to combine technology, the arts, critical thinking and activism to address the intractable social problems that are entangled with both the rise of AI and the climate crisis. And we need to find highly collaborative ways for individuals and communities to become active change-makers. Rather than falling into the traps of techno-optimism or -scepticism, we must explore what Arturo Escobar has called “designs for the pluriverse”: designs that account for the pluralities of being, that dismantle the harmful hierarchies that were created between human/non-human and culture/nature, and that reorient us towards sustainment, maintenance and care for each other and for the planet.
The *This Is Not A Drill* project does exactly that. It stages a range of small creative interventions that bring together social scientists, AI technologists, artists, activists, and policy makers to creatively think about a new and radical agenda could look like that addresses the climate emergency in the age of AI. The first intervention is the creating of a a *This Is Not A Drill* card game, a collaboration with game designer Alina Constantin.