Moderating the Atlas Speaker Series "Diversity and Technology" panel

ATLAS

IT is changing the very foundations of our society. By "IT," we mean information technologies in the broadest sense – everything, really, about computing and the use of information.

IT is changing:

  • The way we communicate – ANYTIME, ANYMEDIA, ANYPLACE
  • The way we work – ANYWHERE
  • Who can participate and access information – ANYBODY

We also live in an increasingly diverse world, and we know that women and under-represented minorities are barely participating in the invention of the technology upon which our society increasingly depends. And so it is fitting that our inaugural panel for the ATLAS Speaker Series last week explored the juxtaposition of diversity and IT.

As part of our ATLAS Building Grand Opening (the building is beautiful and requires a visit to marvel over all the technology it houses) I moderated the panel, entitled "Diversity and Technology." The panel featured distinguished and diverse IT professionals from across the country:

Here are some of the topics I asked the panel, along with a summary of their discussions.

What technology do you think is hot today and why? (I just had to mention the iRobot Roomba, which is on my list of all-time favorite appliances.) Medical technology, assistive technology, community-enabling technology, technology that allows us to age gracefully, radio tags, robots, and GPS.

Do you see technology impacting different groups differently; and if so, how? Access to technology empowers everybody, especially under-represented groups. Now they have access to information that was previously out of reach. They have more power and can integrate with others in completely different walks of life, all over the world.

What is the single most negative aspect of technology for our world?

Fear of the unknown, living in isolation, loss of community, resistance.

It's hard to measure absence - we don't really know what under-represented groups would bring to our world if they were participating in the invention of new technologies. But if you could imagine a world where their ideas were in fact represented in the technology we use, what would that world look like? We would finally have the hi-tech home – no more chores. Also, since under-represented groups are usually required to do more with less, because they usually have fewer resources, the technology they invent may be more efficient or pragmatic. Everybody has a different life narrative that they bring to the creative process; excellence knows no gender and ethnic boundaries.

The panel engendered some unusually rich dialogue and I'm hopeful I can reconvene them in the future for an encore performance.