Tech Inclusion: the Diversity of an Open Mind
The Palace of Fine Arts was born out of an Exhibition intent on demonstrating that San Francisco had rebuilt itself. So the fact this year’s Tech Inclusion conference was held in the neighboring Innovation Hangar (previously the Exploratorium) is quite appropriate. In a sense, the goal here is to rebuild SF’s crown jewel: Tech. Young and not so young white guys hold a majority stake at present, but in the years to come, it seems to me that the tech sector is going to incur some well-deserved growing pains of a different variety. We’re not talking 4-5x the national GDP growth rate, no, this is something more like 4-5x our current diversity numbers. Why? The hypothesis being: a more diverse and inclusive tech workforce will correlate to better software for more people. I believe this to be true. Not to go all metaphysical, but software is a reflection of us. With a wider variety of faces looking into the mirror for input, the output will resonate far closer to an extension of self, rather than a coded tool fit for utilitarian purposes. Tech needs to feel better. Right now on the whole it still feels cold and like a non-native center of effort in many ways. If we want the coming age of ML, IoT, and orchestrated automation to be a shared progression in productivity, rather than a sterile exercise in efficiency, than we need to get more demographics at the maker’s table. If the web is world wide, then so too should be its creators. This is what the conference reinforced for me. Minorities and underrepresented factions of the population need be more prevalent decision-makers.
With all this said, white guys aren’t the enemy. I recently commented on twitter that I can’t wait for more AR applications to launch at scale in the post-PokemonGO era, one of which I hope allows us to change our physical appearance. I’m going to be aquamarine with white hair, at least to start. The point being is that we are quickly moving in a new direction with regards to race and understanding in our nation, and soon the world. Sadly, as evidenced by a large subset of Trump’s supporters, that change is not wanted by many in the U.S. But you know what? ƒµçk ’em. This is well overdue in these grand United States of America. We have successfully elected our first black president, and come Tuesday, our first female. Now THAT is something that warrants ‘God Bless America’. If the racists, sexists, even supremacists among us take issue, then we will go around or even thru them if need be, make no mistake. I do not want to go down the negative rabbit-hole of all that is wrong here however, no matter how tempting it is to release all the anger I have towards these pathetic individuals disgracing our magnificent country.
A distinct thanks to Google, specifically Google for Entrepreneurs, for underwriting the conference. And any event that brings both GOOG and Facebook together in the same light is a winner in my book. The star-studded participants didn’t stop there though, it was a regular smorgasbord of web all-stars including: Pinterest, Snapchat, Uber, Airbnb, Github, Slack, Asana, Nutanix, Techstars, Galvanize, Yelp, even a16z, and the up-and-coming City of Portland. It was clear that the mandate to hire a more diverse workforce has been received loud and clear. This is a positive development to be sure. The Tech Inclusion conference grew by an order of magnitude since last year, and with it so to is our appetite for correcting our ills. Nothing is ever perfect, particularly in the beginning, even if you think it is as a function of simplicity. We are entering the non-simple stage of the Internet, and much of the background engineering and infrastructure we all take for granted will probably remain so; but in terms of the front-end web applications that we all choose, and define, and live by, it is time to become better. It is time to shift this exclusive windfall of the last two decades into an inclusive opportunity for all who wish to pursue it.