True North and Tech for Good: A reflection
About the author
I’m a Content Marketing Specialist at Fiix, a hyper-growth B2B SaaS company.
What does that mean? I write blog posts, emails, ads, manage our social media accounts… basically I’m responsible for anything made of words.
Last week, I had the opportunity to attend Communitech’s True North conference at Lot 42 in Waterloo, Ontario. Though billed as a conference that would explore what it means to be human in a tech-driven world, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Should I look forward to real, honest dialogue about current problems the tech world at large has created and is perpetuating, or a glitzy, surface-scratching PR play that would ultimately be a grand yet empty gesture? My skepticism was quelled when journalist and entrepreneur Sarah Lacy took the main stage and introduced herself with, “This talk is going to be about everything we f***ed up in Silicon Valley”.
The speakers who took the stage over the next two days pulled no punches. A number of topics were addressed, from the way a lack of diversity in the tech world creates machine bias, to the “morality crash” of Silicon Valley enabled by “brogrammer” culture, to the pervasive fear that humanity could one day be taken over by robots (Me? Scared of a dystopian future in which we exist solely to serve the very robot overlords we so willfully created? Never).
Though the subject matter was indeed dark at times, there was a constant and palpable positive energy present throughout the conference. The message was clear: Humanity lies behind every piece of technology, and we have the power to shape technology for good if we want to. In other words, it is our responsibility to insist that “tech for good” becomes a part of our ethos. Sounds like a pretty large goal, right? Where do we even start with that one?
Luckily, conference attendees could participate in one of two Tech for Good workshops to help draft a declaration that could be followed by organizations looking to deliver on the promise of doing better. In fact, Fiix’s own CEO Marc Castel was present at both workshops to talk about how Fiix has used the concept of a triple bottom line to help create a sustainable world with its technology. During these workshops, participants reviewed a draft of the Tech for Good Declaration and provided ideas and feedback to strengthen and contextualize its guiding principles.
- Build trust and respect your data
- Be transparent and give choice
- Reskill the future of work
- Leave no one behind
- Think inclusively at every stage
- Actively participate in collaborative governance
The declaration is meant to be a living document, which means that it will inevitably change as the tech landscape changes. Even so, I can’t help but be excited about the kind of future this declaration envisions. As director Spike Jonze put so eloquently in the final talk of the conference, “We have a lack of empathy in this world, and the people creating technology can affect that in a big way”.
I am relieved that we have finally addressed the ways in which tech has been used for bad, and I am so looking forward to the ways in which the tech world will continue to strive for goodness. Above all, I’m grateful to work for a company that’s put a premium on doing good since before it was cool.
If you’d like to read more of Sarah’s writing, head on over to the Fiix blog.