Rodrigo Ochigame shot to prominence after writing a 2019 exposé revealing Big Tech’s role in creating AI ethics rules without legally enforceable restrictions on controversial technologies, such as facial recognition. But his research also highlights the role that the Global South plays in AI innovation: from nonclassical logics in Brazil to nonbinary Turing machines in postcolonial India and frameworks of information science in postrevolutionary Cuba.
What’s the biggest tech opportunity in Brazil that’s often overlooked?
Brazilian universities train many talented computer scientists and engineers, who struggle to find local employment or funding for their ideas. Some of the most skilled programmers I’ve ever met had studied at the public universities in Ceará and Paraíba in northeast Brazil but couldn’t find opportunities there.
What’s the most common misconception about AI in the country?
Many people think of Brazil merely as a market for the deployment and consumption of existing AI technologies. In reality, Brazilian universities and institutions produce some outstanding AI research that deserves more attention. For example, Brazilian mathematicians invented paraconsistent logic, a different kind of logical system that can serve as the basis for new AI systems.
Which countries are leading on tackling the challenges of AI ethics in the region?
There are countless Latin American efforts to address the social implications of AI, including academic networks like the Red Latinoamericana para el Estudio de Vigilancia, Tecnología y Sociedad; nonprofit organizations like Derechos Digitales in Chile; and hackerspaces like Barracón Digital in Honduras. Many of these efforts recognize that the challenges of “AI ethics” are inseparable from Indigenous, antiracist, feminist, queer, and campesino struggles.
*This 3 Minutes With interview first appeared in the Rest of World weekly newsletter. Sign up here.