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10 Things I learnt at All Tech is Human


Last Saturday I attended the event, All Tech is Human, in Seattle. The day long speaker series and panel discussions focused on ethics and technology and how our practices as designers and humans in industry from how we work, what principals we uphold, to the outcomes we want can impact every aspect of establishing each of these systems. Although I believe we should have started by defining the terms technology and data before we dove in, the conversations overall were informative, insightful, and definitely inspiring. The day was composed of expressions of thoughts I had been considering but not sure how to verbalize being articulated by some very smart people, new ideas and process being introduced and discussed by diverse voices in positions with power to affect change who were open to collaboration and input, and reiterations of many guidelines we all know but need to hear again and again until they become common practice and not just common knowledge.


Here’s a list of the 10 bits of brilliance (paraphrased ideas, thoughts, tools) I found resonated with me the most:


  1. Democracy needs conflict. We need many different ideas when we are collaborating.-Yana Calou (CoWorker.org)

  2. Technology is the business of making money. We don’t get paid to ask ourselves, did I make an ethical decision today, it’s all about how many projects did I finish and submit. We have to incentivize ethics if we want change. -Daniel C. Robbins(HTC Vive)

  3. Ethics is not fuzzy or squishy or subjective. Ethics are a realm of facts established on evidence-based truths. It takes due diligence, rigor, and structure. -Reid Blackman(Virtue).

  4. Who is it better for? Who is asking for the change? Are we even asking the right questions? -Shankar Narayan(ACLU of Washington)

  5. Bias in a system does not keep people from using it. -Shankar Narayan(ACLU of Washington)

  6. Human Centered Design is a process, but it does not always lead to social good or solving a problem. It is a tool but the constructs of how you use it also matter. -George Aye (Greater Good Studio)

  7. Lived experiences are more valuable than learned experiences. -George Aye (Greater Good Studio)

  8. Good design builds power. If you have it, give it away. The people with the least amount of power are the closest to the problem. -George Aye (Greater Good Studio)

  9. Design has been focused on making the user experience simple, but complexity isn’t always bad, it can lead to context and user engagement/participation. -Holger Kuehnle (Artefact)

  10. Data surpasses life. We may not live forever but our data just might. We have to know what data is being collected, how it is being used, and most of all how it is being stored. For example, how many of us know what happens to our records when we leave a job? Do we ask HR to delete that information? Nothing about us, without us. Transparency needs to be the key to data. -Laura Norén (Obsidian Security).


BONUS!


11. TIL / TIW: Today I Learned / Tomorrow I will -Sheryl Cababa (Artefact)


At the end of the day, Sheryl Cababa lead us through a great exercise where we synthesized what we learnt by asking questions such as: what are some things we heard today that are surprising or new, what is gaining traction, what should your organization adopt, and how we can translate these answers into concrete actions.


There was also some excellent conversation and advice about diversity, inclusion, systems of power, and who gets to sit at the table and make decisions that revolved around everything I wanted to hear, needed to hear, and hope drive action sooner than later. Until then, may we all embody these ideas to remember that social good and innovation do not have to be a dichotomy.


(originally published on May 28, 2019 on LinkedIn)


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