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The Empire of AI and AI Ethics Governance

Today, new forms of imperialism are at work in the advanced digital technologies we have come to name artificial intelligence (AI).

Calls to decolonise AI have risen from across the world, echoing a growing global consciousness to attend to the debris left by the European empires of modernity and, too, respond to increasing instances of injustice and discrimination arising within the AI industry, discipline and practice which bear the mark of racial inequality and settler dispossession.

AI Ethics has arisen as the dominant discourse for anticipating the harms of these emerging technological systems. In an echo of colonial sentiment, the ethical and legal standards emanating largely from Europe are self-considered to constitute its critical edge in the global AI arms race. But with what effects for post-colonial places and people?

In this seminar, Dr Rachel Adams (Research ICT Africa) will explore the relationship between AI ethics and the historical Western ethics that served to justify and sustain colonial rule, through exploring three conceits of AI Ethics: ethics-dumping and the trial of high-risk technologies in post-colonial places; the evasion of ethical standards by Big Tech in places from Myanmar to Nigeria and Palestine; and the exploitation of post-colonial data resources to enhance the ethical efficacy of AI technologies designed for deployment in the West.

This event forms part of the ILPC Seminar Series on AI and the Humanities: Transforming Society. These seminars explore the societal impacts of AI-based technologies and systems and the role of the humanities and social sciences in providing key insights and enabling an open dialogue on these important and complex issues with the public. 

This international and multi-disciplinary series brings together experts from across academia and policymaking. It focuses on topics of public interest addressing the theme of what it means to be human in a world being redefined by cutting-edge developments in AI and digital policymaking.

Lead speaker

Dr Rachel Adams is the Principal Researcher at Research ICT Africa, where she Directs the AI4D Africa Just AI Centre, is the Project Lead of the African Observatory on Responsible AI(AI4D) and is the Principal Investigator of the Global Index on Responsible AI.

Rachel is a member of the UNESCO Expert Committee for the implementation of the UNESCO Recommendation on the Ethics of Artificial Intelligence, an Associate Fellow at the Leverhulme Centre for the Future of Intelligence at the University of Cambridge, a Research Associate with the Information Law and Policy Centre at the University of London, and a Research Associate of the Tayarisha: African Centre of Excellence on Digital Governance at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg. Rachel was previously a Chief Research Specialist at the Human Sciences Research Council, South Africa.

Rachel has published widely in areas such as AI and society, gender and AI, transparency, open data, and data protection. Rachel is the author of Transparency: New Trajectories in Law (Routledge, 2020), and the lead author of Human Rights and the Fourth Industrial Revolution in South Africa (HSRC Press, 2021).


Dr Christopher Ohge
Senior Lecturer in Digital Approaches to Literature
Institute of English Studies, School of Advanced Studies
University of London

Professor Siva Vaidhyanathan 
Robertson Professor of Media Studies
Department of Media Studies, University of Virginia


Dr Nóra Ní Loideain
Senior Lecturer in Law and
Director of the Information Law & Policy Centre
Institute of Advanced Legal Studies, University of London

ILPC Seminar Series – AI and the Humanities: Transforming Society The Empire of AI and AI Ethics Governance