The final day of MozFest often brings a range of emotions: sadness that our time together is over, but excitement about the projects and opportunities that come out of the festival that will make a positive impact on our digital world.
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Here’s a look at just a few of the exciting things that happened during our last day of Mozilla Festival 2023.
Launch of the Rhizome of Babel
The Rhizome of Babel - a digital project commissioned by Mozilla and created by Nigerian-Canadian visual artist Kosisochukwu Nnebe launched today.
The Rhizome of Babel functions as a compendium of audio responses to the following prompt: “Tell us a story about the first time you realized that your mother tongue could communicate something that other languages could not.” You can now contribute to the project here.
Minecraft Education with the Youth Zone
This week the Youth Zone launched a Minecraft world! An amazing collaboration with an ex-Wrangler’s new education venture, this world gives users free reign of a Minecraft Zoo. They are then tasked with training a faulty AI that has been feeding the animals incorrectly, teaching them about the faults and powers of the algorithms, and how they’re only ever as good as the data they're built with. The project is now in talks about bringing the session to youth groups, as well as to new platforms. You can find the content here, and if you’d like to be kept up to date with future developments you can sign up to get more information.
Dialogues & Debates: The Race To Regulate: How Will This Impact the World?
This panel took a geopolitical twist on the issue of regulating big tech, and was moderated by Mozilla’s Kush Amlani.
Marietje Schaake, policy director at Stanford University Cyber Policy Center, kicked off the conversation by providing an overview of regulations coming out of Europe, which many other regions have emulated. She noted though that not all countries adopt regulations for the purpose of regulation only - others, like the USA, do regulate big tech primarily in the interest of national security. Marietje mentioned often that sometimes, citizens need to be protected not just from big tech companies, but also governments who might misuse data. She prioritized protecting those that are less powerful - whether that be from big corporations or governments.
Nikhil Pahwa, Founder and Editor of MediaNama, talked about the approach that India has taken to regulation - very little rights are available to citizens and there are many restrictions on platforms. However, at the same time, Nikhil shared that a lot of the entities that are considered “digital public goods” in India are in fact not accountable to the government at all, because they do not actually belong to the public. Nikhil shared that India often tries to position itself as “data rich”, and builds systems that center around data collection.
Aisha P.L. Kadiri, PhD Candidate at the École Normale Supérieure in Paris (PSL University) and the Chair Geopolitics of Risk, encouraged us to remember that although Europe has been a leader in regulating big tech, privacy and security, that the concept of privacy and security are not inherently European, and that the concepts are not Western inventions. Aisha also reminded us that data is what is used to make political demands actionable, and pointed to the issue of racial profiling as an example of something that needs data collection in order to combat.
This was an invigorating conversation that dug deep into the complexities of regulation in different geographies.
Mozilla.ai: Building a Trustworthy Tech Stack for the Generative AI Era
This session dug deep into Mozilla’s latest announcement of Mozilla.ai, a startup and community that will build a trustworthy, independent, and open-source AI ecosystem.
Moez Draif, Managing Director at Mozilla.ai kicked off the discussion by talking about how many people struggle to understand the nature of AI algorithms they are interacting with. He noted that if AI is how we will be doing things like interacting with the government and finding jobs in the future, we need to be able to understand the tools better. Moez talked about how the approach of Mozilla.ai is grounded in science and focused on something sustainable, how the venture aims to work with researchers on the cutting edge of AI, and how one of the goals of the venture is to build working code and products for deployment. Ultimately, Mozilla.ai will empower ideas with momentum to become companies or open source projects, and lead to the development of a more trustworthy AI ecosystem.
Mark Surman provided more context behind the thinking and approach behind Mozilla.ai, noting that for Mozilla, “artificial intelligence” wasn’t the perfect term, but Mozilla decided to take a more pragmatic approach and prioritize making an impact in the space rather than getting hung up on semantics. Mark also linked Mozilla.ai to other Trustworthy AI initiatives of the Mozilla Foundation, referencing things like The Mozilla Manifesto and the Data Futures Lab. He also reflected back on the last 25 years, noting that when the concept of open source started over two decades ago, there was much debate over whether it fit the definition of “open source”. Mark expects that similar regulatory conversations will happen again in this new wave of tech and AI advancements.
Kasia Chmielinski did an incredible job moderating this panel, encouraging us often to think about how we are encoding values and social values into trustworthy AI.
Tech & Biodiversity: Legado 2060 Premiere
After a week of co-writing and collaboration of a sci-fi inspired telenovela, the Tech & Biodiversity Space hosted a masquerade party to launch the Season 1 finale of Legado 2060! Hosted in Spatial chat, we did one final push for collaborative writing and shared stories of love, loss, and drama with one another.
The closing circle is always a fun way to celebrate the close of an incredible week together. This year’s closing circle kicked off with reflections from Sarah Allen, Festival Director and J. Bob Alotta, MozFest Executive Producer then shifted to community spotlights with Facilitators and Participants Afreen Saulat and Sindhuri Nandhakumar. We also had a lightning round game show with MozFest team members to spot the human created video in the midst of 2 deep fakes. And just before closing, a very special announcement was shared with the community - we’re heading to Amsterdam, in-person, in June!
Hosted in Disco Tehran's 1970s-Tehran inspired space in Mozilla Hubs, we officially wrapped up MozFest in style - with a virtual dance party!
Disco Tehran a worldwide dance party and live performance project based in NYC and rooted in Tehran. Disco Tehran presented "Mixtape de la primavera" to celebrate Nowruz, Iranian new year, and the arrival of spring.
Thanks for an incredible MozFest 2023! We can’t wait to see where all of the collaboration and experimentation, and learning takes the community this year.
MozFest is part art, tech and society convening, part maker festival, and the premiere gathering for activists in diverse global movements fighting for a more humane digital world. To learn more, visit www.mozillafestival.org.
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Kristina Gorr is a storyteller and strategist who loves using her passion for writing to pull together communication campaigns for MozFest and the internet health community. Her Mozilla superhero powers include curating content from the community, mad organizational skills, rallying and connecting the community, and lending her eagle eye to those who need editing assistance.
Seher is Mozilla’s Wrangler Program Manager on the MozFest team. She has a deep interest in the intersections of democracy & tech, with a focus on those under-represented in both.