This poem was written by Anne L. Washington as part of our ODI Writers’ Fund for Black History Month 2020.
Anne L. Washington teaches data ethics at New York University as an assistant professor of data policy. The National Science Foundation has funded her research multiple times including a prestigious 5-year NSF CAREER grant on open government data. Her current work investigated COVID19 classifications in open data. This piece was given several times at open-mic events in New York City because art reaches minds sometimes faster than academic papers.
i am A.I. and Thou
iCan make algorithms nervous
iCan forget about that year, that place, those people, that food.
iCan remember that year, that place, those people, that food.
iCan say that I am not a trucker but that trip changed my life.
iCan set my own trends.
iCan tell the algorithm that she borrowed my machine
iCan tell the search engine that it was just a school project
iCan tell the thermostat that it was a freak blizzard
iCan tell the gas company that my mother-in-law was visiting for only a few days and she likes it really warm.
iCan conspire with outliers and
iCan throw off averages.
iCan find my data doubles
iCan find my data double concocting false numbers on forms
iCan find my data double lurking in hospital halls and muttering probabilities
iCan stop my data from whispering about me to strangers
iCan control data gossip
iCan choose whether country means my permanent address, my current location, my billing address, my nationality, or my place of birth.
iCan, no that’s not my correct address
iCan be seen without cameras
iCan be heard without microphones
iCan choose two cultures not one parent
iCan see my reflection in the category
iCan find my community in the choices
iCan choose something other than other
iCan be who I wanted to be
iCan be who I want to be
iCan be different from what I did last year
iCan notify you when you are wrong
iCan track your intentions while you trace my behavior
iCan see who you compare me to
iCan choose who you compare me to
iAm Thou, not you.
iAm the mean of me
iAm not divided by the total sum of others
iAm better than the base rate
iAm my own intelligence