The Future of Inclusive and Multi Diverse Technologies
[MUSIC] Good morning everyone, my name is Lucy Lin. I am the Founder & CMO of Forestlyn, and an advisory board member. I want to begin by acknowledging the Traditional Owners of the Land which I’m on, the Gadigal people of the Eora Nation. This is their land, never ceded, always sacred.
I also pay respects to the Elders of the past, present and emerging of this place. I also acknowledge that we have people joining us from many other places, and I respect my, and I pay my respects to the Traditional Owners and Elders of their land as well. So this event has closed captioning as you can see which can be accessed from your control bar and we’re here joined by Chelsea Turner who is providing the Auslan interpretation. Throughout we encourage you to get involved and please put your questions by using the built Q&A function here in Zoom and you can see there’s a toolbar on the bottom of your Zoom window as well. So I really want to thank you everybody for joining our webinar this morning, it is "The Future of Inclusive and Multi-Diverse Technologies". This event is brought to you in partnership with the Remarkable, Spark Festival and Forestlyn.
Remarkable is Australia’s leading startup accelerator focused on creating inclusive technology for people with disability and the division of Cerebral Palsy Alliance. Spark Festival is Australia's largest event for startups, innovators and entrepreneurs, and Forestlyn is a strategic marketing consultancy focused in the technology sector. So I just want to say I’m really excited for today, throughout my 18 years career, I’ve worked very closely with the latest technologies and startups, and many are AI focused and today you know I’ll be facilitating a talk with one of AI’s forward thinking ethicists. So it is an honour to have Yonah Welker join us from Switzerland today. So starting with neurological and autoimmune disorders, Yonah overcame obstacles through a technology journey involving AI, social robotics and adaptive learning. He is a technologist, an explorer and VC and works on the intersections of tech, AI, human ability, society and ethics. His contributions include projects with MIT, Singularity University,
500 Startups, Techstars, European Commission and the World Economic Forum. Recent appearances include places like New York, Switzerland, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, UK, Lebanon, Malta, Spain, Italy, France; and we are glad to add Australia to the list as well. So we’re going to start with a presentation from Yonah and Yonah, please take it away. Yep uh thank you so much for introduction and first of all I would like to add that my mission currently is a very clear for me and it's really make my life it's easy and very complicated at the same time because my work is focused on changing of a state of things and in the field of neurodiverse technology, disability assistive technology. Which why I need to connect many dots in research and which why I spend significant time dealing with the hackathons, academia, venture capital and which why I need to work with 500, Techstars and other ecosystems and also policy makers. It's a very complicated, in in in most cases, I’m kind of the most depressive and I would say the most a pessimistic person in the room and but at the same time it happy, it helped me to come up with the perspective and recipes how to solve these problems and today I would love to share my explorations and overview of our results and what we were able to come up with towards zero exclusion in such areas as autism, dyslexia, many various gender problems and one of the a typical question I received then I deal with the professionals and VCs in inclusive technology is, why you still care about, why spend spend so many efforts in this area. Just look at this,
Microsoft and Amazon just introduced accessibility program for hearing impairment, or a Google glass collaborate with autism focus startup, and for instance, these guys even were a guest on my podcast, or tech companies try neurodiverse hiring platforms in order to pick people with neurodiversity, and help them to find jobs in Google, Amazon, Twitter, or schools experiment the social robots for ADHD and AI trainers for dyslexia, and, yes that's correct. We just work with a search startup from Denmark, at the same time just look at this musician NGC from Canada, she's experiment with the bio feedback and imagination to control a modular synthesizer. Yep yep it's correct, it's brilliant and basically we even work on neurodiversity museum. Everything is a really good but the problem is that 90 percent of people with autism are still not employed, only one of ten people with a different type of disability have an access to inclusive technology, and the same time we have a rise of many ethical problems related, related to algorithmic bias for both genders, the black box and transparency problems related to social robots, AI, platforms, supremacy of algorithms, then we are not able to make a correct decision for instance in nursing practice when doctors try to help kids, they use AI but for sometimes it make mistakes and we're not able to use double check principle to solve it, filter bubble, technical fixes and so on. So we have many problems to to fix and that's why today I would love to share the steps we're able to use in order to become closer to the future of a multi-diverse technology, both in terms of a gender, race problems and also disability, neurodiversity problems.
So one of the key actions we try to bring to the table is a representation in technology teams, some people often ignore this point but if we go to a research topic as an annotation or labelling in AI we face significant problems because we have no relevant teams focused on particular problems. There is a very good phrase, on shared on World Economic Forum, AI can be ever the silver bullet for all all existing problems on the planet, but at the same time it can be the source of apocalypses and it's really depend who and how ask question and that's why we have an Amazon, we have a Twitter, we have many disability focused startups but we're still not able to solve some problems because we're not able to align people responsible for research, annotation labelling, dealing with data sets, and people who actually consumers, patients. I'm a patient, I'm dealing with the technology who doesn't work sometimes. I'm a better tester. So what's the problem we
try to solve, in terms of women, only 10 percent of tech and data, data science teams presented by women, in terms of other groups, small groups, as a neurodiverse individuals, as a disabled individuals, we have a just a tiny percent of such people and for sure we're not able to come up with a relevant approach in terms of, not only empathy, but just a simple cultural or cognitive relevance, so which why it's the first thing we tried to solve, both in terms of so-called diversity in inclusion policies but also using such tools as a hackathons to involve more people. I collaborate with Women and AI, I talked in teens and aa, but it just the beginning, we still very far from something really good. Another thing I still deliver in, is a collaborative AI in data, when we deal with the neurodiversity, no matter is about autism and Asperger or if we go forward to mental health like schizoid personality disorder, schizophrenia and other conditions, we deal with the problem of a lack of data. Every time we face the situation we need more data related to MRI scans, information of neurotransmitters, feedback from patients from different countries, and in most cases, startups have none of this information, they're not able to go to the hospital, to the diverse patterns of of the patients, so in most cases, I see solution in open employment and diversity data platforms, mental in general well-being data in the workplace, neurodiversity in neuroeconomic data platforms and, what's what for instance we've seen arise in the last year. I’ve seen many startups working on open data on women involvement, disabled people on workplace, information about health and mental health, and also about different type of disabilities, which accessible in open source for everyone but once again the next stage is trying to put it in more structured way, in more difficult cases related to tumours, particular neurological disorders and so on. Another thing, and specifically related to
startups in companies looking for a funding in inclusive space, unfortunately one other problem I face every day, the diversity in inclusion focused startups are not able to get funding because we don't fit so-called Y Combinator criteria, both in terms of a growth pace, in terms of their business structure and business model, and also the fact that we need a research and science behind it, so even successful MIT alumni and students, even though we receive some support from government, they still fail to become and thrive as a Y Combinator alumni. So, what's the solution, so on one hand, we're working on towards a broader market than we able to use, for instance, rehabilitation exoskeletons is a for instance a tool for an extreme type of sport or a tourism, so broader market in order to involve more people. At the same time, I see an evolution of, for instance, AI and robotics companies into learning companies, over my series of podcasts I spent talks with social robotics companies, both from Europe and United States and we agreed that today, for instance, social robots focused on autism, it's not a field of a hardware development anymore, it's a field of learning companies because you need to create a box for teacher, for schools, for educational agencies, so we could use it in the full cycle, using the principle - don't make me think - because in most cases, schools, hospitals and other specifically government-funded organisation they too full of bureaucracy, particular type of long-term decisions, so you need just to pick the box, put on the table and it should work. So for
instance one of the companies called RoboKind from US, they use, they created curriculums for social robots used for autism and includes particular parts of the spectrum ideas and cases would help teachers use it without additional involvement. Other things and I mentioned it before, is that AI ethics, Just one month ago, I’ve created one of the first paid framework related to social robotics, AI, human-centred AI and ethics for European Commission but we're still just the beginning. We still lack of frameworks focused on AI and inclusive technology and specifically related to young adults and children. Before 2020, we not had any frameworks focused on young people, only in 2020, UNICEF came up with a framework focused AI and children and it was focused on smart toys, educational and learning tools and, after that, World Economic Forum came up with the Generation AI project, but once again, today, startups mostly work in situation they create robots and they for instance try to be aligned with the GDPR, data privacy but we have no idea about human rights, different legal circumstances, in differences in a legal environment in different countries, so we have no frameworks and what we try to create, but another problem, even though we create these guidelines on the huge level or on the level of institutions like Turin Institute in the UK, we should make it open source and which why in recent years I tried to being part of the open source movement like Montreal AI Ethics in Canada, like All Tech is Human in New York and we try to create open source guidelines. How to be involved, for instance, an AI ethics field, how to use it for your company, how to come up with the ethical framework for your organization or startup, so everyone is able to join these communities, download it and use it any time so it's a very simple. And the last thing
I would love to mention is a conclusion of my very quick talk, is a principle of zero exclusion. Recent years most of my colleagues were focused on the principle of inclusion but the problem is that most of the ecosystem until today were created by the same type of let's say white males from western countries with a particular type of ideas and vision of the world and after that other people just try to fit and we just try to include them, but the problem is which we need, we should just decentralize this approach from the beginning, creating the centralized team from the scratch, making cultural changes, involving social scientists, ethical professionals, into our teams, creating, for instance, accessible moral vocabulary for our teams where everyone in your team is able to become so-called agents of change or agents of ethical frameworks. For instance in the recent year we started to use education in organization focus on bioethics, human rights and development of mindset, then developers specifically focus on AI or social robots for kids have a fundamental understanding not only how to create technology but how to make it transparent, explainable but also aligned with existing laws, human rights. At the same time when we able to be accountable on every phase of development, starting from the testing and finishing with basically implementation, in deployment. And the final thing I would love to mention, when we deal with the complex technology, like AI platforms, robots we try to avoid so-called technical fixes, because until today companies like Facebook, if something bad happen, they just, for instance, when they deal, with the disinformation, with not really efficient algorithms, they just came up with the new feature. So after one wrong feature, we create another in order to have to make up previous one but the problem is which we just had no relevant team members, team culture, organizational culture criteria, we had no knowledge about particular cultures, genders, social groups, disabilities and that's why our technology failed in terms of facial recognition, in terms of speech recognition and so on. So thank you so much,
I tried to put tons of insights and data in just 15 minutes but hopefully it was useful, thank you. Thank you so much Yonah. That was a lot of info. I know that you know we only gave you 15 minutes. I think you actually did it all in 10 which is even better, but you know we wanted to make it more interactive and have lots of questions from the audience. Yeah I hope you enjoyed that. Please as I said, write your Q&A in the Q&A section or in the chat and we will get those asked by Yonah. But let's go into the Q&A, so I'd love to ask
you know, it was very insightful what you just presented but can you, could we hear a little bit more background to your story as well, so how did you get started in the field, what was your mission and what really drove you to become so passionate about AI and ethics. Yes first of all, I started my journey around 2004, I've started to write about technology because I was really passionate about it. I still remember with my first work was a white paper about the history of Nvidia, which one, which currently one of the the most active companies in terms of VR technology and video adapters, but recently, well up to, that I became involved in hardware field.
I actively work across Asia-Pacific region, and later I combine two main areas of my life, is a passion to creativity in art, I'm a composer, and into technology and with how I become involved in platforms like MySpace around 2009, and after that I started to explore data science, social networks deeper and that's how I came up with several startups related to big data, and later I use all of this knowledge in order to combine it with my own obstacles, because I was a self-learner and I would say that the fact that my condition just pushed me out of the society, it was a huge pain for me, I was a, I don't, I don't, I don't want to sound egocentric but I was extremely smart when I was a kid but then my condition became worse and became naturally I would say good performing in terms of my, let's say, conditions. So I always dream to become a part of MIT, Harvard. I dream about being a part of some very smart, very knowledgeable ecosystems, have access, opportunity to realize my potential, it was a part of a huge pain, huge depression so I just tried to connect all of the dots of what I know, in terms of open source platforms, in terms of a robot, so how it could align it in order to make cities more accessible, how to make education completely decentralized, how to align particular mental patterns or spectrums in technology, how we can use technology for instance like semantic analysis or collaborative filtering to find like-minded people in order to facilitate collaborative creation or collaborative learning or more efficient education for for particular type of disorders or healthy ones who just would love to empower the learning process. So actually it was a very genuine process, full of obstacles, full of full of depression and every time I use myself and similar people, my friends, other patients, in order to understand challenges and troubles we have and just trying to come up with some ideas and hopefully in some point I’m actually faced startups which work on this field and I just try to being a connector, create something similar or better and that's how I became a part of this movement. Yeah no. That's great. It’s, it’s, it's always fascinating to hear everyone's backgrounds, really and how you came the way you are. In our audience I know that we've got
quite a number of entrepreneurs and startups who are, you know participating and listening to this talk. I'd love to hear, you know you're a, you're a mentor, board, owned, a board member, VC etc. Do you have any advice for any startups and entrepreneurs in this space and what they need to do to kind of follow, you know your steps as well perhaps.
Yes, it's a very good question, question, first of all, I think we live in very good time to be an entrepreneur. There are so many opportunities and first of all, typically I recommend people to make two main main steps. First of all, is to join like-minded communities, for instance, if you're women it's too really good to become a part of Women in AI or Teens in AI, because it help you to find like-minded people and share and exchange ideas to come up with some startup ideas to, for instance connect people who work in similar research field, and after they start to participate in hackathons in order to come up with the first prototype and typically as you have a prototype team you're able to join some acceleration programs like a 500 Startups, Techstars, Y Combinator, or you will be able to work on your own on bootstrap because there are crowdfunding opportunities, you you can work completely bootstrap way. There are
successful unicorns like Mailchimp or Atlassian, which become a billion dollar companies, even without any funding. So for sure it can be very difficult but there are many opportunities and another thing I would love to mention. Currently we have a shift, from I would say salesy entrepreneurs, when we have a huge movement, just everyone is able to become entrepreneur, you just need to create some simple app. Currently we have a shift to more scientific driven startups
in companies, for instance, recently a startup accelerator from the UK is called Entrepreneur First. It's very active in Asia Pacific as well. We attracted over 100 million dollars because we were focused on founder focused model driven by a combination of research, PhD people and very smart people who able to convert their brains into technology, so currently the main assets be behind most of the team, it's not just money for instance or a revenue but also a scientific and highly impact model which able to change the future in huge scale, so I'm really encouraging you, for instance if you currently part of universities to continue your education in combining your entrepreneurial endeavour in ventures with your current education to deepen your research and then combine it with the relevant people and as a kind of a criteria I consider one of the best to become entrepreneur today. I think education is really, really important and I think you mentioned that quite a number of times during your talk, which is, which is great because I think you know yeah. I just think education is like the backbone of so many things including education into newer technologies, AI etcetera. I want to move into more diversity and you know this talk is very much focused on diversity. You talk about diversity as a way to build startups, and can you explain why startups is is important to have more diversity and then what would startups also need to do to ensure that diversity inclusion is one part of their teams.
Yes when I work with startups in ecosystems like 500 for instance, one of the key issues or reasons why they fail is the lack of a correct user research and I even created a course focus on user research and product research in dealing with data in order to analyse your insights, create correct labels extracted from your interviews, surveys and so on. For instance we recently spent it in in South Korea, but the problem is then in most cases founders are not able to ask correct questions, so for instance when you created products for neurodiverse people it's good to have a neurodiverse people in your team who are able to have an empathy, an understanding of a problem from the personal side as well. That's what related to user research but in the same related to development process, when we have a diverse teams we are not able to create products focus on particular audiences. If we have no women in technology we're not able to create baby products better
health products, health women health products and so on, if we have no neurodiverse people in teams, the same work for a neurodiversity, so that's why some problems were never mentioned in venture capital before because nobody cared. In just recently one of my peers, she created venture funding platform which only invest in Autism focus startups because in most cases people who for instance have autistic kids or relatives with such problem they know this problem and they become venture activists, but why they care, which why they actually dedicate themselves to this problem and start to invest and the same with the founders. Until you part of this problem you really start to dedicate yourself to quality user research, ethical consideration on every level, not just a quick pitch deck raising some funds, enough to it just making an exit. It's just a question of your personal responsibility, because as I mentioned before, we have a one of a project which is called Neurodiversity Museum, is dedicated to my creative work music but I and basically we have a collab, we have a even talk and negotiation with one person from Australia and the main idea is to help people to understand when how people of different type of diversity feel themselves, how we see the world. We need to help people to understand these differences and that's why we're not able to learn (we) empathy, we should experience it and that's why I believe diversity are crucial for all teams in order to help people experience empathy and create with empathy in mind. Yeah I think I think user experience and empathy is so important. Definitely think you hit the nail
on the headband, especially in terms of product development. If you have any questions please answer in the Q&A or in the chat function and I will try and raise it, and we do have a question from Katharina, who asked, it's sometimes easier for startups to use innovative technology as they're at the beginning of their business journey and they're often smaller. What are your, like, you're in larger organisations, they have so much more priority and they're competing for attention, so do you have any advice for larger organisations and especially in the diversity and inclusion professionals for larger organisations - how they can also be more inclusive.
For sure and we have much more opportunities for that, we even work for a project which call, called Zero Exclusion and our goal is to spread ambassadors of zero exclusion to any compass, to any organization, to any startup. So basically you should come up with a ethical or inclusion or zero exclusion of framework, would become a part of your culture including internal policies, your development design process. So the problem is that, before that, we just try to create a diversity inclusion department. In my in in my view it doesn't work because it doesn't create a culture, the problem is that we just have no correct social science education and understanding of the problem and until people, all the people, developer, designers, marketers, sales people, actually have a knowledge in bioethics, human rights, in understanding the problem we're able to leverage with a framework on every level, we're able to create a policies and guidelines, introduce it on every level and hopefully to come up with some results, but once again it's a very systemic process. One of my peers who became inspiration for my work is Tiffany Yu, she created a movement was called Diversability, is one of the biggest and movements focused on reshaping how we feel and understand a disability, more kind of our superpower but not just a kind of a limitation and I believe until we are able to deliver this mindset, not only to disabled people but healthy ones, we’re not able to change the status quo and what what just creation of a let's say inclusion and diversity department doesn't work because they become just kind of overseers of observers for people for other people who still don't care and that's why we we we didn't see significant results in recent years. I mean we talk about inclusion, we created department but statistics still not really good. I mean we still have just a 10,
11, 12 percent of women in technology, disabled people still have have no access and yes I mean I'm working remotely all of my life but it become possible just recent two years after COVID-19 just to conquer the whole world, before that most ecosystem were not friendly for remote work, for most of the accessibility options, it was mentioned on their sites but in reality we try to avoid this option, picking a healthy one with what I, I faced more than 100 times. I even create experiment then, we send two, this same type of CV and CV with disability was rejected 100 times. So what's how our world works, I mean nobody actually would love to solve problems, we would love to be responsible only in verbal way but until we really reshape the whole culture, introduce frameworks, put social scientists, social responsibility people in our department and we actually introduce correct education in bioethics and human rights and empathy and nothing actually works. Yeah I really like that response and yeah I I I completely agree with you. I mean I I think a lot about how the world has changed because of COVID and and you know you touched on this a little bit in terms of your talk earlier, but I think a lot about our mental health as well and I think everybody's mental health has just shifted a bit since, since you know the world has changed about a year ago now. In your mind, like you know the mental health or diversity inclusion,
how how have you seen has it gotten better, worse, like how do you find a solution especially for this space and has technology being able to assist with that do you think. Yes mental health is a very tough tough field. I’m a mental health patient, I use an antidepressant recent years, and I believe it's almost impossible solve mental health issues until we actually reshape our industry. For instance, if we go to research field as a depression, we had a very efficient medication in 1960s, 1970s but in the moment then depression became as a mainstream thing, companies start to create naturally efficient medicine for everyone who just have a bad mood or some slight depression. In in the end we just stopped actual research in the major depression syndrome and related condition and that's why many of the patients like me used very old drugs from the past and only now they return to this research maybe five or ten years ago but until then we had no actual progress. So I believe as we are able to reshape venture capital and investment field in order to become more focused on impact, on in connection on customers, we will be able to come up the stack of solutions with what I call ecosystems or clusters, for instance related to VR, AR, digital therapy, medicine and everything should be focused on actual results, not for instance entertainment of people with mental health as some apps work but actual therapy and actual responsibility for result because in most cases solutions I've seen before it was about like VR against anxiety, or some slight PTSD, but in case of bipolar disorder, major depression it just didn't work so we invest millions of dollars in another toy. Yeah sometimes
it makes sense to make toys but in the end the main market should be focused on actual therapy and basically I'm a venture partner for a fund, it's called Tabula Rasa and it's focused on experimental and the new generation of medicine in mental health, so is a part of my work but since I'm very responsible I never share any details because until we're able to treat people and people became really healthy, until I tested myself, it's it's better to never share anything as some people like Elon Musk say that they're able to treat schizophrenia with the Neuralink, it's just really irresponsible. Millions of people struggle, some people, thousands of people die due to suicides and it's really not filled for jokes, it's not funny, it's a significant challenge and yes and there is still a significant road for reshaping industry creating combination of technology medicine and responsible doctors and professionals, as I call it is a medical engineers, because even nurses today deal with AI platforms, computer vision, facial recognition and I had an episode with the one of the the most famous nurses from United States, so yes as everything start to work in this direction I expect some good results. Yeah no, I completely agree with you there and I just think it's it's a major issue and it's going to get bigger and yeah and I think we need to step up and do a lot more. I'm just looking at the time I'm gonna have one final, final question, very quickly.
This is something that's pretty close to me, you know you talked a bit about AI and women in technology and I'd love to hear a little bit more about the representation issue. There's only about 10-15% of professionals who are women and other groups. Can you suggest more actions on what we need to take in terms of improving this underrepresentation? Yes, just today I shared an interview, I spent for so many areas, she's one of the top influencers in UK, she created, of, she creates women think tank and fem peak platforms focus on women in technology, so we had a joint talk about this problem and the key recipe I've shared is a whole reshaping of industry and venture capital. I believe until we try to just include women in male created Silicon Valley it will never work, so what's why for instance in Women in AI we create wholistic system from scratch, in completely decentralized way and some people are really surprised, Women in AI, open to male as well. Some male, able to participate in our ecosystem, do you know why, because way we will see that our hackathons more efficient and they deliver more results and they're able to be more efficient in terms of health technology, educational technology, social justice, ethics because nobody cared about this problem before, so the only thing to create representation is create alternative. Not just to include women as an assistant or as just a part of a board but created completely women-driven, women-owned ecosystems which able to demonstrate how women-driven hackathon could create better innovation or equal innovation, how they're able to create a venture capital, venture funds and basically this is the same problem with the racist and ethnical groups in technology, until we have a black owned or Asian owned companies we will never be able to solve particular problems. So I don't believe in inclusion, I believe
in actual equality and equity, when everyone is able to create their own ecosystem, on their own, on their own rules with like-minded people in the centralized way, choose which way how we would love to fund it, choose we, choose which topics and things we care about it, so if people would love to be focused on health, so let's do it. Not think technology or insurance because Silicon Valley cares about it, nope, for instance women would love to solve other problems with how I see it and with how I try to facilitate it. For instance in Women in AI because we will create a hackathon in June and I've joined them in order to co-lead expansion in the United States, so you're open to join us and to see how it actually works then everything created by women in the centralized way, completely on democratic basis, yeah, complete open source and we will create an AI technology platforms, apps and maybe even robots. So yeah that's how it works. Fabulous well I, we're just running out of time now but I really enjoyed this conversation. Thank
you so much Yonah for your time. We covered so much, we've covered everything from representation to empathy, to AI frameworks, to autism, accountability, transparency and education, so many other things that I think we talked about today. Really, really grateful for your knowledge, thank you so much. I've learned a lot. I really will also want to touch base in conclusion the end of this talk. So on behalf of Remarkable, Spark Festival and Forestlyn, I really want to thank
everybody for joining us today. Thank you also Chelsea for interpreting and most of all thank you Yonah for your very thought-provoking discussion to reimagine ability, technology and also ethics. I hope you all can stay connected with Yonah and also myself through our social media channels, and really to stay up to date with Remarkable accelerator and to learn more about events that they host during the year, you're very invited to also follow them on all the social channels and subscribe to their Youtube channel and also sign up to the newsletter, for the Spark Festival, which is an annual event in October, it's a great source throughout the year to also find out about other events, so make sure you are subscribed to their, go to their website, subscribe to the weekly spark newsletter and to list any other events that's coming up in the Australian startup ecosystem.
This event is recorded and it is going to be made available on the Remarkable Tech and Spark Festival YouTube channels in the upcoming weeks. Please be sure to subscribe. Finally your feedback is very important to us so please take the time to please complete the survey that is going to be in your inbox shortly. Again my name is Lucy Lin, thank you Yonah so much for your thoughts and insights today and I really wish everybody a great rest of day and thank you for joining us.