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BBL Speaker Series: Is the ‘African’ a Standing Reserve in Global AI Pipeline? Yes!

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Speaker: Muhammad Adamu, Senior Research Associate, Imagination Lancaster Digital Good SIG, Lancaster University, UK

Location: HBK 2105 and Zoom

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Abstract: What is this thing AI? Is it the possible mimicry of the technical, social, or cultural intelligence of the human or the actuality of superintelligence? But wait, which Human, the Hegelian Man-as-Human or the Wynterian Beyond MAN, towards the Human? We don’t know! This thing AI that was presented to us during the short-lived summers and long cold winters will solve the “common sense” problem, i.e., model human knowledge of the everyday, what Heideggerian phenomenology calls “Being-in-the-World”.

In this talk, I will introduce a particular dimension of the Heideggerian critique of AI, i.e. enflaming [Gestell] and standing reserve [Bestand]. In particular, I will adopt the concept of standing reserve to articulate a particular relation of the African citizen – a user, a client, a producer, or a labourer- within a largely Eurocentric AI landscape, and attempt to demonstrate how the existing institutional conception of the African as an objectifiable subject that can be resourced for capital will inform (and reform) the African orientation of the future of AI. In short, I will argue that the African, just as Kalluri and colleagues (2023) “Surveillance AI pipeline” paper has demonstrated how Humans are conceived as entities under the umbrella term of “objects” or “region of interest” in computer vision research, is historically and continuously co-opted as standing reserve for the total mobilization of technocratic ideals – thus to be catalogued, computed and used as resource that is disposable and replaceable.

Bio: Muhammad Adamu is a Senior Research Associate for Imagination Lancaster Digital Good SIG at Lancaster University, UK. Muhammad is strongly associated with the “African perspective” in Human-computer interaction, and more recently the social futures of artificial intelligence. His current interdisciplinary research focuses on establishing the themes of “Good AI societies” and “AI for Good” in Africa and has been funded by the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND) and Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF), Nigeria and the UKRI Research England.