Mirage Spring 2021

Page 12

Photo: IVOW AI

Cultivating Cultural Intelligence in AI UNM alumna Davar Ardalan’s company IVOW AI aims to put cultural literacy in artificial intelligence. By Steve Neumann


ne of the most frequently used clichés in popular science fiction is robots endowed with artificial intelligence becoming self-aware and destroying humanity. And while some engineering companies like Boston Dynamics have managed fairly astonishing physical feats, like robots dancing to “Do You Love Me?”, the actual AI component of this promising technology is still unacceptably unaware of the diversity of human heritage and tradition. It’s culturally illiterate. That’s because artificial intelligence is derived from data that’s already out there in the public sphere, and that data is mostly based on Western European heritage rather



than the diversity of communities that actually exists in the world. To make up for this deficiency, Davar Ardalan (’93 BA) created IVOW AI, a multidisciplinary team of women technologists and storytellers whose mission is to enhance consumer engagement through the unique lens of culture and artificial intelligence. Ardalan graduated from UNM with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and communications and went on to become an author, journalist and, now, a tech entrepreneur. Prior to starting IVOW — which stands for Intelligent Voices of Wisdom — she was a veteran journalist at NPR News for 2O years.

Ardalan — whose maiden name is Bakhtiar — chose UNM because the institution was somewhat of a family affair: at the time Ardalan enrolled, nine members of her large Iranian-American family were getting either their bachelor’s, master’s or doctorate degrees at UNM. “It was really cool,” Ardalan said, “because there was a whole Bakhtiar clan that would meet at the Student Union Building every day for lunch.” Ardalan’s journalism journey began when she saw an ad for a work-study job at KUNM, an NPR affiliate on the UNM campus. That experience, combined with her coursework in journalism and