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Mixtape podcast: Artificial intelligence and disability

Welcome back to Mixtape, the TechCrunch podcast that looks at the human element that capabilities technology.

For this chapter we spoke with Meredith Whittaker, co-founder of the AI Now Institute and Minderoo Research Professor at NYU; Mara Mills, affiliate prof of Media, Culture and Communication at NYU and co-director of the NYU Center for Disability Studies; and Sara Hendren, prof at Olin College of Engineering and generator of the recently published What Can a Body Do : How We Meet the Built World. It was a wide-ranging discussion about artificial intelligence and disability. Hendren kicked us off by exploring the distinction between the medical and social prototypes of people with disabilities 😛 TAGEND

So in a medical sit of disability, as articulated in disability studies, the idea is just that disability is a kind of condition or an impairment or something that’s going on with your body that takes it out of the normative average state of the body says something in your sensory makeup or mobility or whatever is impaired, and therefore, the disability kind of lives on the body itself. But in a social simulate of disability, it’s just an invitation to widen the opening a little bit and include , not just the body itself and what it what it does or doesn’t do biologically. But too synergies between that torso and the normative conditions of the world.

When it comes to technology, Mills says, some fellowships cultivate squarely in the areas of the medical simulation with the goal being a total cure rather than exactly housing, while other companies or technologies- and even inventors- will work more in the social framework with the goal of transforming the world and create an accommodation. But despite this, she says, they still tend to have “fundamentally normative or mainstream ideas of function and participation rather than disability forward ideas.”

“The question with AI, and too just with old-time mechanical things like Brailers I would say, would be are we aiming to perceive the world in different ways, in blind styles, in minoritarian access? Or is the objective of information and communication technologies, even if it’s about making a social, infrastructural reform still about something standard or normative or seemingly ordinary? And that’s — there are very few engineerings, probably for fiscal grounds, that are really going for physical disabilities forward design.”

As Whittaker mentions, AI by its nature is fundamentally normative.

“It outlines inferences from big names of data, and that’s the world it accompanies, right? And it looks at what’s most median in this data and what’s an outlier. So it’s something that is consistently repeating these norms, right? If it’s qualified on the data, and then it gets an impression from the world that doesn’t match the data it’s already seen, that thought is going to be an outlier. It won’t recognize that it won’t know how to treat that. Right. And there are a lot of complexities now. But I feel, I think that’s something we have to keep in mind as sort of a nucleus of this technology, when we talk about its potential employments in and out of these sorts of capitalist motivations, like what is it capable of doing? What does it do? What does it act like? And can we think about it, you know, ever possibly in company including the multifarious, you are well aware, huge amounts of ways that disability manifests or doesn’t manifest.”

We talked about this and much much more on the latest episode of Mixtape, so you sounds play above and dig claim in. And then subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts.

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