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Cosmo-Ubuntu, Machine Translation and Cognitive Code Switching
The panel proposes a philosophical intervention in machine learning and AI praxis using the concept Cosmo-uBuntu and presents the work of Masakhane as one such African solution-oriented intervention. Cosmo-uBuntu is a humane, theoretical, and solutionary approach to technological innovation and policies that address issues of global justice. The Masakhane project brings together diverse African NLP researchers who constitute an open-source, continent-wide, online research effort in machine translation for Africa’s languages. Cosmo-uBuntu as a sustainable, inclusive, and global alternative framework for understanding personhood or “human” in AI praxis expands the normative reliance on a Europeanist understanding of “human” which remains insufficient for technological solution beyond Euro-modern worlds. The panel also highlights cultural and individual differences in direct interaction with different technology interfaces based on the cultural reading practices of non-Western and African peoples. Masakhane mobilizes AI and machine learning towards solving problems of the scarcity of public African language datasets, lack of discoverable African language resources, and impediments to African language access to advance local innovations in Africa. The project reverses the trend toward exclusively Anglophone digital futures in Africana worlds and conducts proactive restoration of African epistemologies.
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