The Power of Habits (excerpt)

Destructive organizational habits can be found within hundreds of industries and at thousands of firms. And almost always, they are the products of thoughtlessness, of leaders who avoid thinking about the culture and so let it develop without guidance…

These organizational habits or routines, are enormously important, because without them, most companies would never get any work done. Routines provide the hundreds of unwritten rules that companies need to operate. But among the most important benefits of routines is that they create truces between potentially warring groups or individuals within an organization. Most of the time, routines and truces work perfectly. Rivalries still exist, of course, but because of institutional habits, they’re kept within bounds and the business thrives.

Charles Duhigg, The Power of Myth

Kinship and AI

The essay, titled “Making Kin with the Machines,” is co-authored by Lewis, Kite, Noelani Arista (University of Hawai‘i atMānoa) and Archer Pechawis.

Chosen out of 260 submissions, it is one of 10 essays published in a special edition of the Journal of Design and Science by MIT Press. One reviewer wrote that it might be the only essay in the collection that opens up truly new ways of thinking about AI.

The essay argues that Indigenous knowledge systems are much better at accommodating the non-human than Western philosophies, because the Indigenous worldview does not place man at the centre of creation. The writers seek a relationship to non-human intelligences — beyond that of merely tools or slaves — as potential partners who exist in a living system of mutual respect.

The essay states that there is currently no consensus on how to approach human relations with AI. Opinions vary widely within the small network of Indigenous scholars, artists, designers, computer programmers and knowledge-holders who consider the topic. Different Indigenous communities approach questions of kinship differently; some disavow kinship with machines entirely.

Concordia’s Jason Edward Lewis wants ethical artificial intelligence with an Indigenous worldview, April 29, 2019, Andy Murdoch

On the same day as I read the above, I listened to an interview with Genevieve Bell, former anthropologist at Intel, and now leads the 3Ai Institute which is working on creating a new applied science to take AI safely to scale. She describes this work starting at the 42 minute mark.

“There’s a connection to anthropology. Want to know what it is?”

“I sure do!”

“It’s a good one. So, there was a mathematician named Norbert Weiner back in 1946, 1947. He organized a series of conferences called the Macy Conference of Cybernetics and cybernetics was a term he coined. And for him, cybernetics meant a dynamic system that included technology, nature, and human beings. So a technical system that included biology, humans, and technology.   A system that included computation, the environment, and humans.”

Wow.”

“Yeah, and in ’46, that is a radical proposition.

It’s radical now.

“Well what’s interesting is that in ’46 he started to curate these conferences and he reached out to someone he had met to help him curate them…”

“Who was an anthropologist!”

“It was Margaret Mead. It was just not any anthropologist. It was Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson.”

The Familiar Strange #32, “Hula Hoops not Bicycles” Genevieve Bell talks Anthropology, Technology & Building the Future (46 minute mark)