re: Diversity and the tech meritocracy VIEW POST

FULL DISCUSSION
 

That's actually a good list there. A very specific issue is one the world is dealing with now. Have you ever noticed how Alexa, Cortana, Google Home, Siri, and just about every other digital assistant has a default female voice, and in some cases, ONLY a female voice? Have you noticed that each and every one of them are programmed to be subservient?

Subservient female digital assistants have actually caused a cultural shift for the worse in terms of how women are treated. While the difference between a real human woman and a digital assistant with a female voice is obvious, deep down, in the most primitive parts of our brain, people equate the two as one and the same.

The result is that now we are raising a new generation of kids who don't see any issue with telling their mom or any other woman that they are 'supposed to do what I say'. We are also reinforcing scientifically debunked claims that women don't have feelings or that women are too emotional and too feeble-minded to function without a men to guide them and tell them what to do.

Imagine how easily we could have avoided letting tech roll back women's rights and our fight against sexism and misogyny by simply having women on the team that developed the first digital assistant?

Another example is when auto-focusing tech that enabled webcams to track human faces was introduced. It was quite the scandal when people first realized that it only tracked white people's and other pale-skinned people's faces while completely ignoring anyone with darker skin. Having a person of color on the developing team could have solved that problem before public release.

Then there are automatic phone services that do not pick up female voices. Last month, I had to call in to the VA to continue my disability pay and I couldn't get the bot to pick up on anything I said, no matter how loud I spoke or how much inflection I used. My husband asked me to write down the information needed to get the call to go through, used it to call for me, and handed the phone back as soon as we got an actual human on the line. The bot did not have any problem understanding him, no matter how quietly and calmly he spoke and no matter how much he mumbled. As long as there aren't any women programming these bots, and as long as it's not considered an issue by people who missed to memo that yes, there are female military veterans, women will still have to rely on men to make phone calls for them.

Tech and code aren't inherently racist or sexist, but they can be programmed to behave as if they are all too easily when the developing teams are entirely too homogeneous.

Even if we could solve that, there's still the issue of poorer and rural communities being left out. After all, using the health app my company's insurance provider requires us to use has left me with some interestingly bad advice. For example, the app suggested that I could lower my stress levels by taking an impromptu vacation and walking on a secluded beach whenever I felt stressed. Gosh, it must be nice to be able to schedule myself vacations whenever and have a summer house on my own tropical beach. It's too bad that I couldn't afford a vacation, much less a beach house or an island, or that I'm land-locked in a desert, or that my company requires me to have a 'flexible work schedule' (Vacations are counted by hours, not days, the boss can call you in from vacation or regular time off anytime, and scheduled hours are posted weekly and subject to change with every week's shifts and workdays being different from the last).

Imagine how companies like Uber might change if more poor or rural people were hired to help design a better business model for the company?

 

Thanks for sharing that info. I hadn't thought about rural vs urban, or the voice things before. Those are great points!

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