Peace Be Unto Those Who Follow Right Guidance.
It is now six years since my late father, (Al-Hajj Al-Haafidh) Syed Shahid Ali, passed away. (In this connection, interested readers might want to read the tribute I wrote to him on Friday 24 May 2013, and yearly follow-up posts: The Interconnected Lives of Three Men, REFLECTION: Of Death, Time and Certainty, Of Gardens of Peace, Manifold Graces and Seizing The Time, The Lark Ascending and The Soul’s Ascension and A Sparrow Alighted, A Soul in Flight.)
I know this is going to be a difficult day for my mother and my sister as it is for me. Yet it falls within a month of barakah (Ramadan 2019 CE / 1440 Hijri).
As has become my practice in previous posts reflecting on events that have happened during the past year, once again much has happened in the intervening period, some of it good and some of it not so good, but all of it as viewed from my limited human perspective.
In what follows, I want to reflect briefly on some of the apparent good that has taken place since the post from the previous year. Once again, I have been blessed by God/Allah with a number of opportunities.
- I delivered a lunchtime seminar entitled “A Brief History of Decolonial Computing (in Three Parts)” to the School of Computing and Communications at The Open University (UK) on 19 July 2018.
- Dr Alana Lentin, Associate Professor of Cultural and Social Analysis at Western Sydney University, cited my work on algorithmic racism and decolonial computing in her masters level course, ‘Understanding Race’.
- I was invited to chair “AI and Epistemic Injustice: Whose Knowledge and Authority?”, the first session of the one-day workshop ‘Origin Myths of Artificial Intelligence: Histories of Technology and Power‘ which took place on 30 November 2018 at Hughes Hall College, University of Cambridge. My chair’s response is here.
- My contribution “Prolegomenon to the Decolonization of Internet Governance” appeared in the book Internet Governance in the Global South (University of São Paulo, 2018) edited by Daniel Oppermann.
- My contribution “Heidegger and the Islamicate: Transversals and Reversals” appeared in the book Heidegger in the Islamicate World (New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019) edited by Kata Moser, Urs Gosken and Josh Hayes. This book forms part of the New Heidegger Research series edited by Gregory Fried and Richard Polt.
- A three-part article entitled “Of Sea Walls and Rising Rides: Critical Race/Religion Readings of ‘White Crisis’ in Science Fiction Dystopia” was featured on the ReOrient Blog. (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)
- My paper ‘White Crisis’ and/as ‘Existential Risk’: The Entangled Apocalypticism of Artificial Intelligence was published in the March 2019 issue of Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science (Volume 54, Number 1, pp.207-224). This is the oldest and most pre-eminent journal in this field.
- I was by interviewed by Rafael Gröhmann, a researcher at University of São Paulo, about my research in decolonial computing and algorithmic racism. The interview was published (in Spanish) on 18 April 2019 on DigiLabour a newsletter/blog on technology and the world of work / digital labour. A draft version of the interview in English is available here.
- I was invited to deliver the closing keynote – “The Decolonial Question Concerning Artificial Intelligence” – at the “Mind & World for Humans & Machines” conference co-organized by Cambridge Muslim College and the John Templeton Foundation and held at Robinson College, Cambridge University on Saturday 4 May 2019.
- I am chairing the panel “Crisis Imaginaries and Technological Pasts. Decoding Europe(an) Narratives: Critical Information Studies (CIS) Perspectives” at the ‘9th Tensions of Europe Conference – Decoding Europe: Technological Pasts in the Digital Age‘. I will be presenting a short paper entitled “Race and/as Algorithm”.
- I have been invited to deliver a talk about decolonizing computing and AI at ‘The Digital Turn in Media Anthropology’ a one-day workshop organised by the European Association of Social Anthropologists (EASA) Media Anthropology Network to be held at Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität (LMU) Munich on 11 October 2019.
- I have been invited to participate in a one-day ‘Symposium on Intercultural Digital Ethics’ organised by the Digital Ethics Lab (DELab), Oxford Internet Institute (OII), University of Oxford, Oxford on 10 December 2019.
- My contribution “Transhumanism and/as Whiteness” is forthcoming in Transhumanism – The Proper Guide to a Posthuman Condition or a Dangerous Idea? edited by Hans-Jorg Kreowski and Wolfgang Hofkirchner and published by Springer.
- I have been invited by Professor Sylvester Johnson, founding director of the Centre of Humanities at Virginia Tech University (US), to present my work exploring the entanglement of race, religion, AI, Transhumanism and the apocalyptic in the 2019-2020 session.
Further barakah from The Most High.
I wish my father had lived to witness some of these achievements, the fruits of the tree that he and my mother planted as they supported me in my educational endeavors at every step of the way. Yet God/Allah knows best and took him from us and from this world with all its trials and tribulations at his appointed time.
Unfortunately, I have not yet had an opportunity to visit the grave of my father at the Gardens of Peace Muslim Cemetery this year but will visit soon, insha’Allah.
I should like to end this post with the following video featuring words from the 12th century Andalusian Sufi mystic and intellectual giant, Abū ʿAbd Allāh Muḥammad ibn ʿAlī ibn Muḥammad ibn al-ʿArabī al-Ḥātimī aṭ-Ṭāʾī (25 July 1165 – 8 November 1240), popularly known as ibn ‘Arabi and affectionately referred to as “Shaykh Al-Akbar” (The Greatest Teacher).
Watching this video, absorbing its imagery, reading and reflecting on its words to the accompaniment of “Va, vis et deviens” by Armand Amar, I find myself crushed into nothingness, humbled before the loving majesty of The Divine.
I dedicate this piece to my late father, may God/Allah grant him a place in The Garden.