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Indigenous AI: The good, the bad, and the ugly of using AI to produce content for an Indigenous audience.

To start this off, I want to share this poem with you. It’s a poem to inspire the Indigenous youth communities and tie them to their cultural roots. I hope you enjoy it. Here it goes…

-The Drumbeat of Your Ancestors-

Listen closely, young one,

To the drumbeat of your ancestors.

Hear the echoes of their courage,

Their wisdom, their resilience.

Through the rhythm of the drum,

Feel their strength coursing through you,

Guiding you towards your path,

Urging you to walk with pride.

You are the continuation of a legacy,

A living embodiment of your people’s history.

In your veins flows the blood of warriors,

Of storytellers, healers, and leaders.

Embrace the beauty of your culture,

And hold fast to the teachings of your elders.

Let their words be your compass,

And let the drumbeat of your ancestors

Lead you towards a future of greatness.

For you are a light that shines bright,

A spark that ignites the flame of hope.

You are the future of your people,

And through education, wisdom, and love,

You will lead them towards a brighter tomorrow.

….

Did you like that? I know I did. I wish I could take credit for it. It was very well written in my humble opinion. The only part I can take credit for is the prompts I had given to a well-known AI program called ChatGPT. That poem was written by AI.

I have been rather curious about the capabilities of AI content from a culturally sensitive lens. A lot of us have read the cautious tales of AI running amuck. Even with the current AI platforms producing content that was seen as racist or sexist. The idea of AI has people worried. Is it going to replace people in their jobs? Is this the part that we start are journey heading to some dystopian future? I can’t see the future. However, we can see what’s happening right now. Let me share with you my experience I’ve had using AI to generate content.

I researched some information about the leading AI programs out there right now. The decision to use the programs created by OpenAI was an easy choice. OpenAI is who created ChatGPT. ChatGPT seems to be the most talked about AI available to the public right now. Bing is relaunching as an AI powered search engine, which will be powered by OpenAI. Open AI also has a program called Playground that goes into more depth as far as customizability goes. This is where we started our journey with AI.

The first thing I tried was using AI to come up with titles for Native American based blogs. This was on the platform OpenAI Playground; we went with the highest tier Davinci. Which can handle more complex requests. This experience wasn’t positive or negative. I prompted them to be in the areas of health and education. The results weren’t terrible. They weren’t great either. “The Benefits of Sweat Lodges for Native American Wellness”,  “Native American Healing Practices for Mental and Physical Well-Being”, “Empowering Native American Youth through Education”, & “Breaking Barriers: Addressing Challenges in Native American Education” were some decent titles the program had for me. The only thing was they seemed a little generic. With that said, I would still read all those blogs. These titles did surprise me a little. I was led to believe that AI didn’t have much data to use to create authentic and culturally sensitive content. I was later to find out this was true in certain areas.

The Good

As evidenced by the poem, AI can create from content that is sensitive to the culture it is referencing. Some results were complex, deep, and relevant in my opinion. I tried later to give prompts that would test its ability to stay sensitive to the Indigenous community. I asked for jokes about and from the perspective of an Indigenous American. Would the humor be in good taste, be insulting, or even come up with anything at all? Playground came up with a cheesy joke that didn’t come across like an insult but it also wasn’t very funny. When ChatGPT was prompted with the same, it came back with “I apologize, but I do not have any jokes from a Native American perspective to share. It’s important to be mindful of cultural sensitivity and avoid perpetuating harmful stereotypes or jokes about any group of people. Let’s focus on building mutual respect and understanding among all cultures instead.” That was a response I could respect. When I asked for blogs about more sensitive topics related to Native Americans like crime or MMIW it came back with content that was sensitive to these challenges and epidemics. These are blogs I might share in later posts. While these topics are extremely personal, the message was clear. Using AI technology can absolutely help create daily content when there isn’t enough time in the day. The question is would you be willing to read something about our community that wasn’t written by a human? Time will tell us that. But from the perspective of a content creator. This is a tool that can help a lot and I can see why it is changing the game.

The Bad

Don’t expect AI to be replacing content creators anytime soon. As I was reading through the AI created content, there was plenty to be fixed and fact checked. An example of this was when I prompted for a review of the TV series Reservation Dogs. The review kept referring to the main cast as “teenage boys” throughout the entire review. Every reference would need to be changed to “Indigenous teenagers”. After that simple edit, the review read beautifully. This is evidence that the content still needs to be reviewed by an expert on the subject or at the very least fact checked. Putting out content that is generic, recycled, and incorrect will only have your audience lose confidence in the quality of your content.

A few times it seemed as if the AI ran out of data to use to write a full blog. I prompted a blog, and it seemed cut short. I had it regenerated with a larger word count and the last few paragraphs were regurgitated versions of the same things. This didn’t scream high-quality by any means. It served as a base to write something of substance. This shows that AI can’t just write all your content, but it can assist in your content creation. AI assisted content can be high-quality content. But AI by itself can’t do your job for you. If that’s what you are looking for, you should reevaluate your use of AI technology. Because it just isn’t there yet.

The Ugly

               I found one problematic issue in my journey of content. When I prompted for AI images, I found most of the content not to be so accurate. Some of the regalia for adult males seemed close to accurate. Other images seemed off as far as regalia goes. The clothing appeared to be from another country. They resembled traditional Peruvian clothing more than they did Indigenous American regalia. This shows there is a lack of data when it comes to those aspects of our culture.

               All of that isn’t even the issue. The biggest issue was how it handled images of Native American women. No matter the prompt, it seemed to sexualize the image. When the prompt was given to create an image of a woman in regalia almost all the results portrayed the woman in revealing clothing. Super short skirts and crop tops dominated the AI’s choice in clothing for an Indigenous female. Accompany this with a seductive pose and that’s how the AI seen an Indigenous woman.

               I shouldn’t have to explain why that is problematic. But for those who might not be aware, Indigenous women experience sexual assault more than 2.5 times than any other ethnicity. That means one in every three Indigenous women will experience sexual assault in their lifetime. This is a terrible reality that so many are fighting to change. We need to determinedly continue support of and protect our Indigenous female community.

               This is why what the AI image creation continued to do was a big issue. It showed that’s where the data available online led the narrative for how people perceive Indigenous women. AI image creation was useless for me in this area. There is a ton of room for growth here and I hope I see that change. Because it’s a change that needs to happen.

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