Artificial Intelligence in the Colonial Matrix of Power

Philosophy and Technology 36 (4):1-24 (2023)
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Abstract

Drawing on the analytic of the “colonial matrix of power” developed by Aníbal Quijano within the Latin American modernity/coloniality research program, this article theorises how a system of coloniality underpins the structuring logic of artificial intelligence (AI) systems. We develop a framework for critiquing the regimes of global labour exploitation and knowledge extraction that are rendered invisible through discourses of the purported universality and objectivity of AI. ​​Through bringing the political economy literature on AI production into conversation with scholarly work on decolonial AI and the modernity/coloniality research program, we advance three main arguments. First, the global economic and political power imbalances in AI production are inextricably linked to the continuities of historical colonialism, constituting the colonial supply chain of AI. Second, this is produced through an international division of digital labour that extracts value from majority world labour for the benefit of Western technology companies. Third, this perpetuates hegemonic knowledge production through Western values and knowledge that marginalises non-Western alternatives within AI’s production and limits the possibilities for decolonising AI. By locating the production of AI systems within the colonial matrix of power, we contribute to critical and decolonial literature on the legacies of colonialism in AI and the hierarchies of power and extraction that shape the development of AI today.

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