I’ve been playing around with a few different AI (artificial intelligence) websites for fun. One of them will take a picture and alter it however you choose. I took my headshot and told the AI to add a circus lion. I’m not showing the picture, it was a bit risqué. Another time I directed the AI to add sushi or put a Star Trek theme around me. It was funny to see what came up and a great way to burn 20-minutes. AI has a lot of potential, but it isn’t foolproof. In today’s NY Times there is an article with a dire headline: “A.I. Poses ‘Risk of Extinction,’ Industry Leaders Warn.” Since I’m not extinct yet, I didn’t ask ChatGPT to write this blog post.
Presently, AI can help to educate about race, but for the near future we need to invest in our own learning with time and personal experience.
Paul Simon – What’s a white dude has to do with it?
On my daily dog walks, I’m listening to Malcolm Gladwell’s book Miracle and Wonder, Conversations with Paul Simon. When the book popped up on my library queue, I paused and thought “Why’d I put a book about a white dude on hold?” but since it is a Malcolm Gladwell book I decided to give it a try. I’m glad I did. The audiobook is excellent. Both Gladwell and Simon’s voices are narrating the book and they interweave Simon’s singing.
While listening to the book I also thought about a podcast I had just listened to about AI technology. I realized AI can’t teach about race deeply (yet) because it doesn’t know how to draw upon different life experiences and weave them into a cohesive narrative. AIs can give you academic and basic answers about race. I tested the theory by asking ChatGPT to write a few paragraphs about race. It spit out some decent answers. But some of the best race work can’t be done by an AI because it doesn’t know how to take abstract concepts and blend them to push thinking or experiment with its writing to find the right tone, mix of thoughts, or interesting ways of forcing new thinking.
Gladwell talked about cultural immersions and experimentation as being part of Paul Simon’s musical genius. Simon’s music is influenced by many different sources and he experimented all the time. He wasn’t afraid to try something and deem it not usable or up to his musical standards. Gladwell talks about how different great musicians of that era were influenced by different radio channels they could pickup which introduced different types of music – such as Gospel, jazz, Mexican music, etc. Simon also talks about how he can’t imitate other sounds, he found it necessary to hop on a plane and record in different locales to ensure he was hiring musicians with those authentic sounds to get his music right. The riffing off different musicians led to some of his best music. His music is known for its South African, gospel, and playing with sounds (non-words la, la, laaa, sound).
Respectfully immersing ourselves into different cultures is important to learning about race. Being uncomfortable and around situations that are different helps us learn, build empathy and tolerance, and forces new thinking. It helps to break the known neural pathways that lead to our biases. It also gives us a bigger reservoir of experiences to draw upon when we encounter a new situation.
Gladwell included an audio clip of an NBA player (I can’t remember which one, and I can’t find it in the audio book at the moment) who recounted in detail how a game went. The player was re-living the game in his head for the interview. Gladwell talked about how having these detailed memories and deep mental bench of experiences allowed the basketball star to play at a peak level. He could quickly draw on his memory to adjust his game versus being like me on the basketball court – looking like a stunned deer. For us non-NBA players having deep diverse experiences allows us to bring richness and nuances to understand race and adjust our work to be deeper and better and more quickly responsive to POC community needs.
Currently, I doubt an AI can make these quick pivots and draw on diverse experiences to get race work right. If we think about where AI’s are drawing their information from it is from published material. Who currently has access to being published favors privileged people – white, formally educated, English literate (for English generating AIs), access to publishing privilege, tech literate, etc. Some will say the internet breaks down barriers to being published, that is true (this blog is proof of that since it is self-published – mistakes and all), there isn’t equal access to the internet.
No AI generated posts yet
I joked with a friend that I should take a week off and allow ChatGPT to write a few posts. But nah, the AI wouldn’t have the same personal nuances. Maybe I’ll test it out by asking ChatGPT to write about race combining Malcolm Gladwell, Paul Simon, and an unknown NBA player to see what it gives me.
Thank you to our Patreon subscribers. At this time I don’t offer ‘extras’ or bonuses for Patreons. I blog after working a full-time job, volunteer and family commitments thus it is hard to find time to create more content. Whatever level you are comfortable giving pays for back-end costs, research costs, supporting other POC efforts, etc. If your financial situation changes please make this one of the first things you turn-off — you can still access the same content and when/if you are able to re-subscribe I’ll appreciate it.
Adrienne, Agent001, Aimie, Alayna, Alessandra, Alessandra, Alex E, Alexa, Aline, Alison FP, Alison P, Allison, Amanda, Amber, Amira, Amy, Amy K, Amy P, Amy R, Andie, Andrea J, Andrea JB, Andy, Angelica, Angelina, Ashlie, Aya, Barb, Barbara, Barrett, Betsy, Big Duck, Brad, Brenda, Bridget, Brooke B, Brooke DW, Cadence, Caitlin, Calandra, Callista, Cari, Carmen, Carolyn, Carrie B, Carrie C, Carrie S, Catherine, Chelsea, Christa, Christina C, Christina S, Clara, Clark, Courtney, Dan, dana, Danielle, Danya, Debbie, DeEtta, Denyse, Dennis, Dennis F, Diane, Don, Ed, Edith, Edith B, Eileen, Elizabeth, Emily, Erica J, Erica RB, Erin, Gene, Genita, Hannah, Hayden, Heather H, Heather M, Heidi and Laura, Heidi, Hilary, J Elizabeth, Jaime, Jake, James, Jane, Janet, Jelena, Jen C, Jen E, Jen H, Jena, Jenn, Jennet, Jennifer, Jess, Jessica F, Jessica G, Jillian, Jody, John, Jon, Jordan L, Jordan S, Josie, Julia, Juliet, June, Karen, Kate, Katharine, Kathryn, Katie O, Kawai, Keisha, Kelly, Kiki, Kim, Kimberly, Kyla, LA Progressive, Laura, Lauren, Leah, Leslie, Lily, Liora, Lisa C, Lisa P-W, Lisa S, Liz, Lola, Lori, Lyn, Maegan, Maggie, Maile, Maka, Maki, Marc, Mareeha, Marilee, Mark, Matthew, Maura, McKenzie, Melissa, Melody, Meredith, Michael, Mickey, Migee, Mike, Milo, Mindy, Misha, Molly, Nat, Natasha, Nicole, paola, Peggy, PMM, Porsche, Rachel, Raquel, Rebecca, Robin, Sally, Sarah B, Sarah D, Sarah H, Sarah KB, Sarah R, Sarah S, Sarita, Selma, Sharon B, Sharon Y, Shaun, Shawna, Siobhan, Steph, Stephanie, Su, Sue, Sue C D, Susan, T Wang, Tania DSA, Tania TD, Tara, tash, Tim, Titilayo, Tracy G, Tracy TG, virginia, Vivian, Ward, Wendy, Willow, and Zan
If you subscribe to the blog, thank you. Please check fakequity.com for the most up-to-date version of the post. We often make grammatical and stylistic corrections after the first publishing which shows up in your inbox. Please subscribe, the sign-up box on the right sidebar (desktop version). To see what Erin is reading and recommended books check out the Fakequity Bookshop.
I am writing from the lands of the 29 federally recognized and non-federally recognized tribes in now Washington State, including the Coast Salish people — Duwamish, Muckleshoot, Suquamish, Snoqualmie, Snohomish, and Native American organizations that have treaty rights and have been here since time immemorial. I give my thanks to the elders, Native and Indigenous colleagues and relations, and the land itself. Fakequity pays “rent” to Native organizations in Washington and Hawai’i; a small act to repair and work to be in more justice-based relations.