How Native Americans are trying to debug AI biases


One such tool is the IVOW’s Indigenous Knowledge Chart, or IKG, a cultural engine of early development that focuses on the storytelling of Indigenous recipes and cooking practices. After meeting with the IVOW team in 2018, Mr. Yarlott presented the IKG, a kind of visualization of a dataset, to capture indigenous knowledge.

“You know in dramas you see the person trying to figure out a mystery and they have the cork board and the little notes and the string between them?” said Mr. Yarlott. “That’s basically what the IKG is, but for cultural knowledge.”

The first step was to collect the data. The team chose a culinary focus because it’s a part of life that everyone shares. They collected recipes and related stories both from the public domain and from team members.

Mr. Monteith chose to go into the story of Three Sisters Stew, a recipe created from symbiotic crops (corn, beans and squash) that he says is familiar to indigenous peoples wherever these ingredients grow. The story of the Three Sisters, he said, is not just a recipe but a way to teach sustainability practices, such as water conservation. “It’s just a great metaphor for what we need to do as a society and as a people around the world,” Monteith said.

Using Neo4j, a graphical database management system, recipes were broken down into components (title, ingredients, instructions, and related stories) and tagged with information, such as tribe of origin or whether the recipe was contemporary or historical, or had roots in folklore. . This dataset was then entered into Dialogflow, a natural language processing platform, so that it could be fed into a chatbot – in this case, Sina Storyteller, the Siri-like chatbot designed by IVOW. Currently, anyone can interact with the first version through Google Assistant.

The tools and techniques for creating the IKG were designed to be basic enough that anyone, not just those with a computer background, could use them. And IKG only uses information that is widely available or that the team has been authorized to use by its own tribes, groups and nations.

There are challenges, however. The process is laborious and expensive; IVOW is a self-financed company and the work of the collaborators is voluntary.


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