Payal Arora, digital anthropologist and author of The Next Billion Users, talks about the dangers of artificial intelligence (AI) solutions in a thought-provoking piece for entitled AI isn’t going to save us.

Humans, Arora argues, have all too often been taken out of the equation when it comes to the twenty-first-century flood of AI solutions to everything from smart citification to elephant poaching,

“Poverty, in addition to rampant corruption and an insatiable global demand, is what drives poachers to poach in the first place. AI solutions and the rangers’ problems are massively mismatched. It also demands the question: who decides what is “good” in the first place?”

The workplace is a key focus for Arora, and especially how it relates to women. The latest project she got involved with—‘Feminist Approaches to Labour Collectives: Organizing Digitally in South Asia,’ FemLab—got underway just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

FemLab is a three-year grant-funded project by the International Development Research Center (IDRC) Canadian agency. The FemLab team working are spread from India to The Netherlands, Bangladesh, and Germany. They aim to,

“Explore ways to foster an understanding of female workers’ concerns, and everyday strategies to collectively organize themselves by accessing information on rights and sharing their working conditions using digital tools… (and) have an action research component where we will design a digital storytelling toolkit and campaign based on the voices of these women. The goal is to use these digital tools to build awareness among our participants of their rights and collective opportunities and nudge behavioral change among consumers and businesses in alignment with ethical practice.”

The team will work with women in India and Bangladesh to map how they work, foster work-related community networks, and gather actionable research.

“The goal is also to animate and engage consumers and other stakeholders across the global supply chain and to steer them towards responsible and ethical consumption practice when it comes to fair work in the global supply chain.”


Arora will be joining us at IID during the Movement 1: “Questioning Identity and the past” plenary session on 24 March. For a primer of what to expect, watch Arora speak about the future of the Internet at TED in 2017.


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