What we don’t get about hardware: social justiceFeatured

kuan's profile thumbnail
Thank you, Cami for sharing your story with us! If you have a story to tell or know someone who does, please reach out to us via DM.
laurennkuranga's profile thumbnail
YES. YES. and YES. Love this take.Question: do you believe there is a commercial outcome that can drive bringing robotics and AI to marginalized communities? What is the incentive (beyond social good) to do this work?
camilleeddy's profile thumbnail
Hi Lauren, While social good, in my mind, is what these companies claim to be doing anyway, i.e. Google wants to connect the world through information. There are tons of articles about the buying power of underserved communities. Which, in a tech sense, underserved communities means that these people are not filling the average customer base/interviews/profiles for these products. And in my opinion, almost always because of OTHER reasons besides customer fit. Think about Black women buying power in the beauty industry (https://www.huffpost.com/entry/black-women-nielsen-report_n_59c3fec2e4b06f93538d3a05), they are a great fit for these products and are still underserved by the beauty industry. On top of that idea, here is a general list of other articles that talk about the buying power of people with disabilities, Black people, zip codes, and some other ways (huge) populations of underserved communities are locked out of being a part of the product development conversation:https://www4.uwm.edu/eti/PurchasingPower/purchasing.htmhttp://www.aetna.com/producer/aetnalink/2008-12/link4q_08_niche.htmlhttps://www.air.org/system/files/downloads/report/Hidden-Market-Spending-Power-of-People-with-Disabilities-April-2018.pdfhttps://www.diversityinc.com/growth-black-buying-power-continues/Thanks for your question. I hope this idea impacts the way you develop products. We can all own a part of this solution. Camille
quinneyeQ's profile thumbnail
I LOVE it when people are so aware + thoughtful about the design process. I totally agree with this: “Robotics needs to provide more solutions for marginalized communities.” This statement also applies to software!Innovation often has unintended side effects, with certain segments of the population reaping benefits while others continue to suffer from a growing list of disadvantages. The climate crisis is a salient example of this, with poorer communities suffering the brunt of climate change + pollution. To this end, do you have a “social responsibility” checklist for your robotics projects? I believe @jyoung has developed such a list to encourage thoughtful and responsible design — Josie, would love to hear your insight on this!
camilleeddy's profile thumbnail
Hi Quinn,I love the idea of a social responsibility checklist. This is what I have been doing:1st level:Does a product cross an ethical line for my community that results in them being targeted or treated in a discriminatory manner? Does it rely on certain cultural and physical identities that are broadly represented by my community (e.g. skin tone, voice accent, neighborhood resources like malls, retail stores, access to hardware, computers, tech skills, etc.) in order to accurately and fully serve my community? And if it doesn't or can't, do we have a good reason for why we are still making the product in this way?How accessible are members of my community, outside of me, to be reached for testing/conversation/release (as in does the team know who they are making this product for and can they get accurate data on how the product is performing for my community's segment of the customer base)?2nd level:Am I aware of any of the answers above negatively impacting a community I am not a member of?Can we get/create a testing group for that community? Or at least start a conversation with qualified and vetted stakeholders (as in NOT token stakeholders who are just there to show we talked to someone).3rd level:If we are using a data-rich testing group, who is missing from the conversation? What groups are easier to test for and WHY? Thanks for your question Quinn! I hope this is interesting and usable. We all can own a part of this solution!Camille
lakaycornell's profile thumbnail
I work in the social impact space and I would love to share this with my consulting group (and possibly others) - the "checklist" - would you be okay with that? Happy to give credit obviously...
rm's profile thumbnail
YES. So many times yes. It's the responsibility of all of us in tech to ask ourselves these questions before we start a project. Especially agree with your statement that "some areas of tech expansion might need to slow down until we can understand the impact on our most vulnerable communities." Like Quinn said, there are so often unintended consequences in tech (and other industries) that take time to manifest. Do you have any recommendations for striking the balance between quickly deploying new technologies that have the potential to help our communities and taking the time to more fully understand their effects?
camilleeddy's profile thumbnail
Hi RM, I think the first way we can strike a balance is to allow the limited deployment of tech but not in the way we are used to. If we can't be near enough to monitor the effects of our technology, we need to have people in those physical locations that understand when the norm for a community deviates in a harmful way. For example, Google Maps was unaware of a false avalanche warning re-routing people around Stanley, Idaho. A rural community that depends on tourist traffic. https://www.ktvb.com/article/news/local/google-maps-error-fixed-but-it-has-hurt-the-town-of-stanley/277-449766175 I was at Google when this happened and I was contacted by a friend from my hometown of Boise, Idaho, she wanted to know if I could help get a fix. Within an hour of seeing the message from her, I was able to get in contact with someone from the Google Maps teams which was not the team I was a member of. But the problem had been occurring for months and the people in Stanley couldn't get a hold of the appropriate stakeholders. Thanks for your comment! I hope that idea is impactful for you as you build your own products. We all can own a piece of this solution.
jennko's profile thumbnail
Thank you for sharing this! Very insightful thoughts. I think one thing we need to be mindful of, even in the very initial planning stages of bringing technology into other communities and countries from the Western world, is to wrestle with if our technologies will actually help these communities. Will technology truly bring happiness, or are we performing a modern day colonization in bringing what we believe is superior into their world. I liked your point that, "We need to balance our teams with developers and engineers have a personal and community driven stake in what is being created." To add to that, We need to include people from the communities in which we want to bring the technology to, to understand their needs. In doing "social justice," what truly is justice? I argue that it is not necessarily what us in high-tech societies think it is.
eliseremy's profile thumbnail
Thanks for sharing great insights Camille! The hardware industry needs more engineers like you.