Women in Tech Stockholm 2020: critique

in 2020 •  19 days ago  (edited)

I attended Women in Tech Stockholm 2019, which is probably the best tech-conference event that I've ever attended; it ran sleek as lightning, many super-interesting speakers performed well, and the breakout sessions that I attended were superb. Women in Tech (WiT) was wondrous.

This year—2020—the theme was Beyond Borders artificial intelligence (AI).

Lora Haddock DiCarlo started off by holding a very interesting keynote talk about adversity, e.g. being discriminated by CES—she was given an award, had it retracted, then she was praised—and how she'd broken a lot of barriers. She cursed a lot and it was grand.

Chagall turned up and did a musical show with her mi.mu gloves, which was quite interesting.


FOTOGRAF EMILIA JIMÉNEZ-BERGMARK.
Doktorand vid teknisk högskola forskar.

The afternoon had 'breakout sessions' which were small-group sessions where I attended one by Cybercom: 'Digital dystopia and utopia'. Speaking about dangers that surround AI—e.g. the use of AI to do bad stuff, which is already happening—one of the participants said this:

AI is math. You can't regulate math.

That is not entirely true...not to mention that it sidetracks why we should speak about what AI actually is and does when it is not regulated.

Edit, 2020-03-11Swedish police have just admitted to lying about not having used Clearview AI. Hence, private facial-recognition data has been uploaded to a US company, hence made available to the US government.

That statement is, in itself, something like saying 'Life is rife with disease. You can't regulate disease.'

Sure, some diseases must exist for scientists to analyse pathogens and produce solutions for future disease, produce serums, and what-nots, but while we're OK with not releasing Ebola into the streets, AI is a silver bullet because...why?

Here Shoshana Zuboff, in her excellent book The Age of Surveillance Capitalism, writes of how Google believes they have freedom from law:

This kind of lawlessness has been a critical success factor in the short history of surveillance capitalism. Schmidt, Brin, and Page have ardently defended their right to freedom from law even as Google grew to become what is arguably the world’s most powerful corporation.

Their efforts have been marked by a few consistent themes: that technology companies such as Google move faster than the state’s ability to understand or follow, that any attempts to intervene or constrain are therefore fated to be ill-conceived and stupid, that regulation is always a negative force that impedes innovation and progress, and that lawlessness is the necessary context for “technological innovation.”

Zuboff, Shoshana. 2019. The Age of Surveillance Capitalism. Profile Books.

Let's think about how many times Google have been fined for nefarious practices, shall we.


FOTOGRAF EMILIA JIMÉNEZ-BERGMARK
Blivande ingenjörer sitter i bibliotek och pluggar inför tenta.

Another panel, named Re-thinking AI For A Sustainable Future, included players like IBM. I suddenly remembered the part of human history where IBM not only actively helped the nazis by selling them technology, but also developed technology and systems that would provide nazis with an easier and quicker way to detect Jews, Romani, homosexuals, among other 'unwanted elements':

To hear an IBM representative at WiT speak about 'a sustainable future' without any view of the past nor ethics is daunting.

Via a Q&A app, I asked the panelists to discuss when AI should not be used. That could have sparked a discussion which was otherwise barely touched on: the ethical issues and possibilities with AI.

All other questions were answered, not mine. I'm such a typical whiny male...

Not hearing talk about ethics and AI must feel like being at a firefighter conference and not hearing anybody speak about water.

I've asked Women in Tech to invite Shoshana Zuboff to their 2021 conference.

Even though Women in Tech is an admirable conference that is better than nearly every other tech conference that I've ever been to, they have to step up their game. Don't only bring yes-sayers, but make matters complex. People are! We need nuance! Make sure that all sides have something to say; otherwise, WiT will turn into the National Rifle Association who claim 'guns don't kill people, people kill people', whenever AI is talked about.



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