Over the weekend I attended the online Engendering Love Summit which had a wide variety of speakers including two of my favourites whose wisdom I often refer to on this blog: Sally Kempton and Tami Simon.
And to my great joy last night, I was a participant on the Women’s panel to discuss our experiences of walking the world as a woman and what a gender healed world would look like for everyone: trans, women and men.
Our panel had five speakers from a variety of backgrounds who have worked and are working in a range of fields from transpersonal psychology and therapy to working within or alongside Gender Reconciliation International. The panel was expertly chaired by development psychologist Dr Jenny Wade.
My main message was, last night and is now, that we need to stop seeing technology as a force outside of us, and use it as the tool it really is, it is merely an extension of us. Designing software is a political act for it changes the way we work, rest and play, and we need to design love and empathy into our systems. The only way to do that is to have an equal balance of genders at the technology table which is currently packed full of men who live in a world designed for them and who practice social exclusion, often unconsciously, in the real world and in the technological one. Everything has shifted online, people with lower income, the older generation, and those who want a more nature based way of life, to name but a few, are left behind. It is nigh on impossible now to live a life without a smartphone.
We need more women in technology. For it is women who do the triple shift: women go to work, are responsible for the home and hold families together and do the emotional heavy lifting. We need to change society to get everyone to do their fair share and technology needs to reflect that back to us instead of propagating old patriarchial patterns. (I have been writing a book for some time about how, but given that I work the triple shift, it’s taking longer than I would like.)
I talked about my experiences as a woman working in IT. I spend my time dealing in binaries and logic, and as a yogi I regularly roll out my yoga mat to the non-duality of life. I drew on my life experiences which I have blogged about in The accidental techie series in particular how I have always been in a minority in the workplace which is isolating and lonely. Alongside comes my yoga experiences from Blogs On Bikram Yoga and Experiencing and Upgrading your embodiment to Mindfulness: The love within your love and Yoga Lessons: Life on the edge.
Then from a wider perspective of Women in society, storytelling and technology, I have blogged about how we need to establish equity and equal opportunity to make everyone feel welcome and comfortable in a given domain. This comes from having role models so that we can see people just like us, which naturally leads to us forming community, demanding equal pay and rewards for taking time out to care for our children and/or other dependents, and getting the respect and safety we all deserve.
And, as a mother to girls and how they see the world in Women centre stage, I drew on how my girls from an early age would create representations of themselves in videos games because they couldn’t see themselves, and this was amazing and inspirational, just like them. And how in Creating space (4): Invasion, expansion and girls, Maslow’s hierarchy for women? and Mutherhood, menopause and mysticism, I saw that cultural stereotypes are alive and kicking, and though things have improved somewhat since I was their age, there is still a long way to go. I want my girls to take up space and their place whatever that might be, but it isn’t easy in this world.
Recently, I read that women officially turn invisible at 52, and whilst I wouldn’t mind invisibility as a super power I would much prefer to be able to fly. In that way I could travel to places and tell people that technology is only a tool, not something that will save us and that women in particular need to know the ins and outs of how AI works instead of leaving it up to the men.
In this way they can have a say in how it should be used and how much money should be invested in it, instead of believing the latest hype. To this end in March, I spoke about AI at the WI and how ChatGPT is just another version of the Ghosts of AI that haunt us and if it was a real person, we’d say that they were phoning it in.
I will continue to speak as often as I can to find ways to make sure that everyone is included in our digital landscape and feels equipped to contribute one way or another. If you don’t want to code, you can stand up and tell your own story for example, with digital storytelling as each time we are ourselves and tell our stories it inspires others to be themselves and do them same.
Listening to the other women on our panel I saw that although we have very many different life experiences from walking our own paths, we had a lot of shared experiences from being a woman in male dominated fields and being made to feel inadequate because of our gender to the concerns for our safety as women going about the world. Consequently, we are all committed to creating a gender healed world.
For me in such a world, our technology would reflect our real world and from that we see clearly and make positive changes. There would be equal numbers of men and women designing our tech, for equal pay, with an emphasis on using technology to improve the world even if it’s cheaper to get a human to do it because they won’t slow down the servers. Technology already exists to eradicate online abuse and analyse the worst of humanity which shows up in YouTube footage. We should be using technology to do these dreadful jobs instead of paying humans £7/ $8 an hour because it’s cheaper and easier for managers. We need to get these corporations to take full responsibility for the consequences of their actions and their employment of technology instead of destroying their employees’ lives in the name of profit.
Here now with more space, I want to demonstrate the above by highlighting the case of Rafaela Vasquez, who was charged with murder when the self-driving car she was monitoring killed a woman. A full account can be found in Wired Magazine’s article: ‘I’m the Operator’: The Aftermath of a Self-Driving Tragedy.
Training self-driving cars was a two person job but Uber had cut corners and made one person do two jobs. Rafaela was literally thrown under the car by Uber and as a trans woman going to prison, the consequences are unbearable. Uber takes no responsibility and after it got off scotfree through a legal loophole not caring about how it had ruined Rafaela’s life, it soon returned to its goal of driverless cars. The closed world of AI operating in an open world is never not going to be an accident waiting to happen, only a money grabbing company full of spin would even think it was and that it is okay to sacrifice its employees to that cause.
We have to create software which ensures psychological responsibility, that its users know exactly why and how they are using it and how it is using them. We have to set realistic goals for our technology, not endless hype for marketing purposes. ChatGPT is not going to save us, not now, not ever, we need to have hard conversations and do the emotional heavy lifting positive change requires.
We all need to be working the triple shift to create a better world.