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'Iwi Algorithm' can grow Aotearoa's mana

25 Mar 2019

Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei innovation officer Te Aroha Grace says AI can help to combine the values from different cultures to help grow Aotearoa’s mana and brand – and AI is not just for commercial gain.

He has been working with Ngāti Whātua Ōrākei to create an ‘Iwi Algorithm’ that will help New Zealanders prioritise cultural value that AI and other technologies bring. 

The algorithm is designed to feed from current data in order to achieve a ‘human or environmental result to ensure long term sustainability and well-being of New Zealand’. The algorithm will then become a crucial starting point for other decisions.

''The opportunity we have from AI is to look after people, society and our environment. This is an alternative view, to support indigenous mana to create uniqueness for Aotearoa,” comments Grace.

While there is a danger that AI will become a tool for capitalism and commercial gain, it’s better used as a tool to generate social, environmental and cultural capital.

''We could just leave AI to become a commercial and capitalist tool but this would ignore our internationally famous cultural capital in Aotearoa that's been recognised by world leaders such as Barack Obama, Oprah Winfrey and Microsoft head Satya Nadella,” continues Grace.

''Being different won't come by trying to be the same as everyone else and mimic how other countries are considering AI and its value. In Aotearoa we have the chance to use this technology to look primarily after our people and country, in order to generate other success as a result. Approach this the other way around and we will copy the capitalist mistakes of the past.''

Grace points out that the forthcoming well-being budget is a western approach to an indigenous concept.

''Take GDP for example, which has always been a great metric but it doesn't measure dignified GDP - it's just a hard statistic. The well-being budget is a huge step, but it's just one step to achieving growth in measurable cultural value,'' he says.

Many New Zealanders also have a lack of appreciation for Māori cultural value.

''In Aotearoa everyone needs more education and understanding about this. Visitors to our country appreciate it, shown by 70% of foreigners visiting a marae, compared to only 17% of New Zealanders,” says Grace.

''We have an opportunity to learn from our past, combine it with the benefits of technology now, to create a better future for our land, to deliver benefits for generations to come. We are on the cusp of an age of truth where information can bring benefits to all, as opposed to information and technology bringing commercial benefits to a few.”