Return to Bali, 2019-2022

critical machine learning practices in the wild

Return to Bali retraces steps of cultural anthropologists Mead and Bateson to the village of Bayung Gede where the researchers studied Balinese ways of life in the 1930s. The resulting research was influential for their contribution to the field of cybernetics. As core contributors to the Macy Conferences, Mead and Bateson were co-responsible for formulating the tenets of second order cybernetics that sought to use adaptive feedback to better society.

What went wrong! The most decorated child of cybernetics, Artificial Intelligence, forgot about its early roots and lost its way. Too much focus on optimization.

Return to Bali seeks to reconnect with the early vision of Bateson and Mead and to correct some A.I. pathologies. Responding to the fact that local ecological knowledge amongst young Balinese is in stark decline, Return to Bali documents local ecological knowledge related to the use of plants on this island deliriously rich in resources. Return to Bali creates for the next generation a growing knowledge base of plants and fruits across seasons in unprecedented scope and doubles as an alternative dataset for machine learning research at large.

Return to Bali is a much an effort to record and represent knowledge that might otherwise be lost as it is an effort to make A.I work for more people while acknowledging dynamics of technology and capital gradients across the global north and south.

Dataset details
bali-26 collection

GitHub repository

AI has a rocket problem (Medium)
Return to Bali (TransAI)
Machine learning in ethnobotany (Systems, Man, Cybernetics)

Thanks to Wawan Sujarwo.