Equality And Societal Reform Could Change How We Use Science And Technology
Social change brings new opportunities. New opportunity brings collaboration and innovation.
Change is the one constant truth
A program through the alliance of several tech giants, and other industries is called, Unstereotype. It is an educational movement to help people identify, and address, inequality.
It is certainly not the only movement, but one among many. Black Lives Matter, and the UN Women, alliances, for example, both assist and promote ideas of inclusion, and they are only two more examples among thousands.
It begs the question, though. With so many active and inclusive organizations, companies, tech innovators, and more, actively pursuing equality, why is the challenge still so very daunting?
Challenging the status quo is difficult because of human psychology.
Our brains are designed to keep old habits alive.
If we have unconscious habits, which, face it, describes most of our habits, we do not change our behaviors, no matter how destructive they may be. Not only this, but getting people to acknowledge the reality of systemic racism, or violence against women, to use just two common problems, is difficult because we don’t see ourselves as the perpetrators of it.
It’s not at all impossible to see inequality on the part of others, but seeing it in our selves is very difficult indeed. Though people are completely capable of seeing “bad” behavior daily, especially in our media feeds, our survival defenses see to it, that it is much, more difficult to see it in ourselves when we see and hear about the latest outrage that confirms our bias.
In fact, confirming just how bad the “others” are is an international pastime, driven by some of the same tech giants who participate in movements like Unstereotype.
Family of humanity habits
I believe this is the reason that despite the racial inequality protests last summer were historically huge, there are still MORE people that did not feel comfortable enough to participate. Setting aside, the pandemic, which certainly influenced some would-be protestors, the avenues for support were varied, and multitudinous, so comparing supporters to non-supporters still results in seeing that most human beings did not participate.
The greater majority of these non-supporters do not see themselves as being against equality. But old habits, finding a sort of security in the familiar, and knowing that all growth and change requires hard work, are just two examples of what keeps people from activism.
These hesitant habits of ours, however, once identified, can be tweaked and put into our service for a more equitable society. Once that is the goal, a more innovative society naturally follows.
The gender inequality in STEM courses, Science, Technology, Education and Medicine, for example, is hindered by what Dr. Jessica Cundiff reports as the many ways that “gender imbalance in STEM perpetuates the gender wage gap.”
She cites stereotypes of gender, but we can also see stereotypes of scientists as being race based, as well. The “geeky professor” is usually a white man, inherently brilliant, socially awkward, and singularly focused.
But the idea of collaboration, very central to STEM innovation, dispels the myth that one person obsessively working alone is how breakthroughs are made. This maybe began with Mary Shelley setting the trope up for the maniacally driven mad scientist, but we can’t blame Ms. Shelley any longer. We are forced to look at ourselves to find the real “monsters,” and realize we often limit our options when we hold any restrictive perspective.
Nor are most scientists inherently brilliant or necessarily social outcasts. By inviting people to bust through racist and sexist stereotypes, we open entire fields of research to billions more potential innovators.
The creations of our future depends upon every person reevaluating their own perspective, but also taking action upon new knowledge.
Using STEM to branch out
There are literally thousands of ways that innovation, communal collaboration, international focus, and a demand for equality can impact the future we create using technology with STEM and other programs.
Starting with a foundation of equity and equality is essential if we are to do so. The twenty-first century challenges we face are upon us. Pollution, storms, famine, and pandemics will arise. We must include our most vulnerable people to have a voice in addressing these issues at every level, from workers, to teachers, to researchers, to farmers.
The ways in which we participate in industries that brought about the COVID-19 pandemic, is just one example. Will we work together for improved agricultural sustainability, or keep on using old ways that promote spillover disease? Another example, is the myriad of ways in which we will address the climate crisis.
In both of these challenges, the very real threat of excluding participants that fuel creativity and collaboration are worth our careful examination. The idea that some must remain powerless and impoverished is counter to the notion that we are using every tool in the box.
“To change everything, we need everyone.” This sentiment may not have originated with Greta Thunberg, but her use of it is very logical.
Then there are the computational data collection systems that will track all of the above, ensuring that we have evidence and data to display what works and what needs improvement.
Although we still don’t have everybody on board for equality, social scientists are seeing more and more evidence that the germ of the idea is very real, and very persuasive. According to WeForum, as more and more nations include girls and women, in STEM, more hearts and minds are won and more progress is made for a solutions based world.
Finding your Brand
Even as brands make every effort to outdo themselves with positive imaging, and a greater nod toward a more inclusive society, we have to guard against just signaling virtue. We must practice what we preach.
According to H. G. and S. A. Jules-Plag from Harvard,
“Society is embedded in the Earth’s life-support system, and being woke entails an understanding of our relationship with this planetary life-support system.”
In 2020, the world witnessed extreme polarization on topics such as mask wearing, individual freedom, the right to work, or protest, or go to church, or family gatherings, for example; all fell into patterns which appeared to demand people choose sides.
Although the numbers are not all in yet, the racial justice movement appears to indicate many people believed that their right to protest during a pandemic was more important than the life risk of exposure to COVID-19. As outdoor events, distancing, sanitization efforts, and the age of most people fell into the least vulnerable category (i.e., young, fit, people) so far no numbers of super-spreader BLM protests events have emerged. Contrasting that with several “less woke” events on the far right, and it became evident that refusing to take preventative measures did result in some contagion.
This does not mean, however, that the science is on the side of the “woke”, but that people’s opinions, feelings, values, and perspective must be viewed in long term, and in-depth, scrutiny.
To see the whole picture requires extreme vigilance, critical thinking skills, and an open mind. All of which require we drop our bias, or at the very least, acknowledge it.
Being on the “side of science”, can’t just be a useful, albeit somewhat divisive, phrase, it must use real computational integrity, or it becomes entirely counter-productive.
There is also a danger to “woke fatigue.” People are generally turned off by constantly being directed to be inclusive, progressive, or politically correct.
This brings us full circle back to the idea of how we see ourselves influencing every decision we make. To see ourselves more honestly, more specifically, and more realistically, we have to make every conscious effort to not use stereotypes, outdated tropes, heavily polarized politics, or any of our assumption-based attitudes from the past.
Many of us will self identify as a progressive, or conservative, or as a white man, Black woman, BIPOC, LBGTQ, evangelical, or many other descriptions.
These are fine so long as we don’t use these identities to exclude people as “others,” who don’t also want a better world based on equity, and truth.
Most of us wear the hats of many, many categories of people, and we should. What needs to change is the idea that those “others” are fundamentally apart from our kind of people. Combined with the use of realistic research and evidence, we can find the collaborations, partnerships, leadership, and creativity that we need to utilize the greatest number of perspectives.