By Bryan Kramer | Commentary

Restoring Human-Ness to an Increasingly Technological World

Susan Etlinger had always expected she would graduate from college and get a job teaching poetry at “some leafy college”, perhaps in New England. It is remarkable then where she ended up; being a data analyst at Altimeter Group.

Having recently given an incredibly successful and moving TED talk on ethical data usage that garnered over one million views, Susan is here for some human to human conversation about injecting that human-ness back into data in a technological world with Bryan Kramer.

The Pitfalls Humans Fall Into

Susan talks about both the importance of data and the pitfalls humans fall into when interpreting, collecting, and using it, contending that data can rarely accurately present an entire picture, therefore requiring serious critical thinking and curiosity.

She suggests that when relying solely on numbers, important information can be passed over entirely as humans are rarely able to know when our own frame of reference may hide possibilities from us.

The Trend of Autonomous Technologies

Susan cautions too, the usage of data in today’s world, advocating for sustainable data use, entailing a high level of ethics and trust between individuals and businesses. She also analyzes the trust between individuals and another entity; algorithms.

She notes that as the trend of big data dips, rising is the trend of autonomous technologies, referring to technologies that depend on algorithms to operate. Susan points out the trouble with this: as we become more and more crucially dependent upon technologies and algorithms in unprecedented ways, our trust is eroding nowhere more quickly than it is in the technology sector. 

Susan speaks about where technology is headed, the potential dangers of encoding algorithms, and why empathetic and curious human judgement is absolutely crucial to the whole equation.

In This Episode

  • What images can mean for marketing, world politics, and culture at large
  • What data can cause us to miss
  • What is ethical data use?
  • The complicated relationship between humans and algorithms
  • What are the politics of databases?
  • The problem with our political system and technology
  • Where trust is being fundamentally eroded in our society
  • What futures of technology should concern us today?

Quotes From Susan In This Episode

[Tweet ““You never know what your frame of reference is excluding from you.” —@setlinger”]

“These new emerging technologies are built on algorithms and an algorithm is a recipe for making a decision. If we are concerned about understanding data, then we need to be even more invested in really making sure that the way we encode our assumptions in the future are good for business, good for society, good for humanity; good for our human rights.” —@setlinger

[Tweet ““Technology is ahead of our laws. Sometimes it’s way ahead of our imaginations.” —@setlinger”]

“The truth is that we don’t know what we’re paying in data when we interact with businesses. Individuals have to have some way to feel that they have some control and some way to feel that they’re in a mutual relationship. Fundamentally technology is in the service of humans and not vice versa. We have to get in the habit of thinking about data use in a more sustainable way.” —@setlinger

“We’re moving into a world in which, it’s not that we have to trust more than we did before, but we have to trust in different things. We have to trust in an algorithm to work in a way that is essentially unprecedented.” —@setlinger

“We will always have sensors in and around us but there’s nothing that beats the wonderful experience of getting out there and crunching through wet leaves or baking cookies in the kitchen. We will have to pay a lot of attention to AI. We will have to not be too credulous about what it can do and we have to remember that we may not always have the best judgement but we have human judgement.” —@setlinger


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