What corrective lens do we all need?

This is the last of the blogs from me attending the Grace Hopper conference. You can read my previous two blogs here – Haben Girma and Timnit Gebru. One of the VPs of product design from Facebook gave an interesting talk. Given the recent whistleblower incident with Facebook, this post seems all the more relevant. 

She stated that Diversity and Inclusion is no longer a spectator sport – so we all need to roll up our sleeves and do something about it. And it could be as small as increasing your awareness on this topic. Read books, talk to people about what you read. 

She asked us to expand our views of users. If we build something, we usually do that for the actual users. Like cars are for drivers, Facebook is for people who have a login in the app. She suggests going beyond the users to others who are impacted by the usage example, communities impacted by Facebook, schools, local communities etc. This makes perfect sense because if we expand our views, we can at least get a glimpse of the actual impact. We have become so narrow-minded in our thoughts and short-sighted in our vision that we cannot see beyond 5 ft. If we cannot see what’s out there, how can we prepare for it or act accordingly? In Japan, long term planning means planning for 100 years. Imagine how different our societies will be if we want to sustain something for 100 years?

We need to expand our view because it will help us realize our oneness with everyone else. We will not view ourselves as a separate entity, and when we do that, we benefit all. It is essential to have a long term vision, but at the same time, you need a group of diverse people to give you different viewpoints. This is the other thing that happens when we expand our view. For example, if we included teachers and environmentalists in our user group, we would have viewpoints we were never aware of. Imagine if we had Haben Girma in our user group.

It is time we started viewing what we do as having an impact beyond our imagination. It is challenging to see what kind of an impact self-driving cars will have in the future or the ‘online’ nature of life will have on society. But, having a diverse group and wider user group will help us make better-informed decisions. 

Imagine if people building cars or fossil fuels companies had considered the environment when making their products. The world might have been a much different place to live today. Similarly, what we are doing today can benefit from a long term vision. For us, at an individual level, it translates into when we order boxes from amazon, think of its impact on trees and the fact that it provides livelihood. There are no right or wrong answers, but it is good to be aware of the effects.

It is time we all wore the corrective lens and started taking diversity and inclusion as mainstream and not as a buzzword or a good thing to do. The day we do not talk about this topic because it is ingrained in what we do is the day we know we have evolved. 

What are you doing about it?

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