Riding the AI Wave: Will We Catch the Swell or Be Left Behind?

July 12, 2023

Riding the AI Wave: Will We Catch the Swell or Be Left Behind?

Nā Sam Wixon

Sam: “ChatGPT, Could you help me draft an article introduction exploring the potential development of an AI platform that incorporates Kāi Tahu reo, mātauraka, whakapapa, and kōrero?”


“Sure, here’s a possible introduction for your article:

As the world becomes increasingly reliant on technology, there is growing concern about the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on indigenous cultures and communities. Many fear that AI systems developed by non-indigenous people may perpetuate bias, silence indigenous perspectives, and erode traditional knowledge and values.
In response, some indigenous groups are exploring the possibility of creating their own AI systems, using their own data and language to ensure their unique perspectives and experiences are represented in the technology.

This article will explore the potential of developing an AI platform based on Kāi Tahu reo, mātauraka, whakapapa and kōrero, and consider whether such a platform is safe and ethical to pursue.”

AI language learning models and search engines are quickly sweeping the globe. Everyone, but particularly our rakatahi, are adopting this new game-changing technology. Like the arrival of household computers, the internet, Facebook, and the iPhone, the AI wave is building, and whether we like it or not, we have to decide: Will we catch the swell or be left behind?

To give a brief overview AI, or artificial intelligence, comes in many forms, but the current AI sweeping the globe is language learning models and search engines. AI language learning models, like ChatGPT, are trained on massive amounts of text data to learn the patterns and relationships between letters, words and phrases. When given a prompt or question, they use this knowledge to generate a response that is contextually relevant and linguistically appropriate but not always factually accurate.
AI search engines, like Bing, use algorithms to crawl and index web pages, analysing their content and metadata to determine their relevance to a particular query. The search engine then uses these results to write an answer, using referenced materials.

AI systems rely on data to learn and make decisions, and if the data is biased or unrepresentative, the resulting AI system may perpetuate these biases and reinforce existing power structures.
However, it is important to note that the influence of AI on culture and worldview is not necessarily deterministic or inevitable. Rather, it depends on how the technology is developed, deployed and used.
Instead of accepting or rejecting AI systems created by someone else, we can create our own. By developing AI systems that are trained on our own data, our mātauraka, reo, whakapapa and kōrero, we can ensure unique perspectives and experiences are represented in the technology. This is something already being done by Te Hiku Media up north.

“[Using] its massive archive of more than 20 years of broadcasts, representing a vast range of idioms, colloquialisms and unique phrases, many of them no longer spoken by anyone living, was being digitised, but needed to be transcribed to be of use to language researchers and the Māori community. In response, the radio station decided to train its own speech recognition model, so that it would be able to ‘listen’ to its archive and produce transcriptions… using open-source technologies as well as systems it developed in house, [Te Hiku Media] achieved the almost impossible: a highly accurate speech recognition system for the Māori language, which was built and owned by its own language community.”

We could take this so much further than transcription though. We could create a powerful force for cultural revitalisation and self-determination – a Kāi Tahu AI system.
Imagine starting your day with the sounds of taonga puoro awakening you. Following this, the assistant guides you through karakia, grounding and focusing you for the day.

Once you’re up and ready, the assistant provides you with some practical information from the maramataka, offering guidance to your hauora, indicating favourable periods for rest, rejuvenation, or engaging in specific healing practices, aligning with the rhythms of nature for enhanced well-being. Additionally informing you of the best times for gathering kai based on lunar and celestial observations and offering relevant recipes to inspire your meals. And so much more.

Used effectively this tool has endless potential, most importantly to actively resist the erasure and marginalisation that have been the hallmarks of colonialism and to build a better, culturally rich future for our mokopuna. We have always been a people of innovation, finding new ways to survive and thrive in the face of adversity.

So let’s not just catch the wave – let’s ride it with intention and purpose. Let’s use the power of AI to strengthen our language, our culture and our communities. Let’s reclaim our rakatirataka over our own data and knowledge, and protect and enrich our Kāi Tahutaka for generations to come, knowing that our culture is not something to be left behind, but a force to be reckoned with.

Written by Sam Wixon, with the assistance of ChatGPT and Microsoft Bing.