Women in Technology and Science

Future Human 29-30 October 2020

  • 9 November 2020

29-30 October 2020 Future Human, Dublin and Online.

WITS was delighted to be at Future Human this year with our student members. It was an amazing event, there was the main stage with great talks, intimate breakout sessions and lots of chat, all online. Some of the talks are already live on the Future Human section of Silicon Republic, and watch out for more being published in coming days and weeks. Congratulations to Ann O’Dea and all the team at Silicon Republic.

Thank you Ann and Silicon Republic for sponsoring the WIT student tickets, we and the students appreciated it very much. The students were Rachel Kavanagh, Jessica Erkal, Shona Brophy, Maxime Deckers, Catarina Lourenço, Frances Quigley and David Mc Mahon. We asked them for an image, thought or idea from Future Human.

Here are their memorable moments:

  • One talk I really enjoyed was the 'Neurodivergent Talent for the Future' talk with Rob O'Donohue, a senior director analyst in Gartner. His research showed that there are many qualified neurodivergent people, however they're not getting hired due to the interview screening process. He then showed how companies can be more inclusive to neurodivergent people and how this can really benefit the company. It was a really interesting talk and really highlighted some prominent hiring issues in different companies.
  • Just want to say thanks so much for the student ticket to Future Human! It was such a nice conference, hard to pick one favourite moment! I really liked listening to all the speakers talk about how they've adapted to all the challenges we've faced this year, and it's inspiring to see such resilience and enthusiasm. I also really enjoyed seeing the younger students working on very interesting STEM projects, particularly the team from Memory Haven - exciting to see a bright future ahead!
  • There were so many thought provoking talks and amazing speakers! What really stuck with me was the talk by Felix Lajeunesse. Following the live chat during this talk made it clear that so many people are incredibly passionate about space whether they work in the field or not. By making space accessible to everyone through such a media experience from the ISS they are providing people from around the world with a common interest to connect about. I am doing my PhD in astrophysics, and it is easy to get sucked into the details, but this talk made me remember the bigger picture and has made me excited to share my own work with people.
  • One thing that particularly struck me that was common across lots of the speakers was the idea that the times when we make the greatest progress, whether individually or as part of a group, come from trying something new that we have never done before.
  • There were 2 main ideas that stuck with me and that overarched a few of the talks:
    • The importance of mentorship: when the former NASA astronaut Joan Higginbotham said that it took someone else to see "something in me that I did not see in myself", or when the Memory Haven team talked about their project and their mentor, Evelyn Nomayo.
    • The importance of education and participation: Rob O'Donohue talked about including neurodiverse people and tapping into their potential, and Abigail ruth Freeman, SFI's Director of Science for Society delivered an eloquent talk about the importance of properly funded public research and science communication if we really want society to shape the technology that will, in turn, shape it.
  • I was struck by Brittany Kaiser's 'Your Own Data' campaign. I had been so used to viewing data breaches and targeted advertisements as a problem within the system, that it had never occurred to me to use our own data for our own benefit. Kaiser suggested the idea that individuals could even get paid for their data. Since such a large proportion of the population has access to the internet, it was suggested this could bring some people out of poverty. I find it inspiring to think that in the future large corporations will no longer benefit from the lack of understanding of how personal data could be used to manipulate individuals. It is exciting to know we are working away from the days of Cambridge Analytica, and towards a future where our data is not only protected, but valued
  • Thought: I thought that Kaiser's plan of protecting personal data under property law was revolutionary - nobody seems to have identified data as property before, but in essence, it is property because we have to steward it and it has monetary value.
  • Idea: Kaiser suggested that if individuals could get value from the sale of their personal data, they would be able to obtain a basic income, enough to feed themselves every day. She also hoped this could lead to an income which could end extreme poverty in the developing world. I had the idea that if we wanted to set a global standard income - to avoid companies paying people in developing countries less simply because they could - then we'd need to set up a central repository to process which data is sold and how much money each citizen should get for that data. It would probably have to be organised under a UN auspice, which would be possible because of the "feeding the world" aspect. One would obviously have to decouple the actual data being sold from the individual who owned it in this central platform to avoid abuse, but this is how one would probably implement her suggestion.
  • Image