Towards an Inclusive Future
We attended the M-Enabling summit this week. It’s exciting to see industry, innovation, and public policy leaders united in an optimistic, inclusive future for technology!
We attended panel discussions on topics ranging from product safety, AI regulation, design strategy, scaling and more. Speakers from Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, and as well as universities, government agencies, and startups from around the world took stock of the present challenge of creating opportunities and benefits from technology that are available, accessible, and equitable.
Some common themes emerged in the many enlightening discussions:
• AI will be more pervasive and powerful, and soon, and this demands analysis and regulation before it’s too late.
No matter what side of the AI experience speakers were on- creators, users, critics, or consumers- there’s strong consensus among knowledgeable voices that AI’s capabilities will only continue to increase, and that there are real, serious challenges to social and economic order, safety, and civil liberties if this power goes wholly unregulated or is misused. Likewise, there’s strong agreement that crafting effective regulation and standards will be much harder AFTER the technology enters widespread use at its full potential. The AI conversation needs to happen now.
• Inclusive design is the rightful future of design principles seeking diversity, accessibility, and innovation in society.
Whether they used the term or not (though many did), innovation leaders are rallying behind the notion that designing experiences with everyone in mind, from the beginning, achieves the goals of inclusion and diversity more efficiently, cheaply, and effectively than bolted-on accessibility or “diversity bingo.” Inclusive design as a paradigm is gaining rapid acceptance across industries and cultures as the most logical and effective framework for developing technology in a global market.
• Fostering innovation requires deliberate effort. With increased competition in every sector has come increased attention on how to drive innovation, the only avenue remaining for most businesses to try to stand out from the crowd.
The successes in innovation all come from concerted, deliberate investment and a willingness to embrace new and untraditional approaches: cultivating entrepreneurship, investing externally in talented individuals and communities through grants, public-private partnership, and ensuring thought diversity in research and design teams.
• The nature of work is changing quickly, and traditional paradigms of markets, profit, and economic growth demand review.
Inclusive design requires increased representation by members of target markets, which requires increased opportunity- but how will this happen in a future of fewer jobs and globalized labor markets? If diversity helps drive innovation, employers need business models that include the traditionally excluded- parents, women, the disabled, and more.
For tech to be positive, its development must be human-centric. Just as inclusive design only works when populations are made part of the process, so too must technology that will shape entire societies, global markets, and national economies- whether we’ve consented to it or not- include our voices if it is to be developed and deployed equitably. As the scale and consequences of tech’s impact on the world grow, so too must consideration of its impact- and this demands wider voices both to avoid its harm and multiply its benefit.