#SABF2017 – Day 1

SABF 2017; Day 1; In case you blinked, here’s everything that went down.

Challenging our Identity

To kick off this year’s opening segment, Eric Vilain invites us to consider the different aspects of sexuality with regards to anatomy and identity. Contemplating the consequences of clinical labeling, he questions the need for exceptions and surmises what criteria this path would entail. Finally, he argues in favor of an evidence-based approach to the subject and quotes that “good ethics require good data”.

Next up is Agustin Fuentes, who manages a 10 minute recap of over 2 million years of human history. Looking at our similarities and differences to our genetic ancestors, he singles out our creativity as the defining factor of our human identity; our ability for cooperation and developing communities earns a special mention. He further touches on our growing inequality and stresses the importance of context in solving conflicts. Closing on a positive note he holds that if millions of years are anything to go by, we know how to work together.

Accompanying her captivating oratory with a measure of humor, Anna Kazumi Stahl speaks of her personal experience with seemingly exclusive elements of our official identities. She proposes that identity is essentially sameness relative to oneself and advocates for more complex descriptors as opposed to labels. With regards to different cultures, she welcomes an honest respectful society where “differences become a dialogue”.

What is home? In the closing debate, the three speakers contemplate the roles of language and imagination in what we perceive as ours. They discard the idea of a single such emotional domicile, and highlight our human capacity as “niche creators”. Following questions, Eric examines the notion of sexuality as a combination of hardware and software as well as the implications of being free to choose one’s gender; Agustin delves into institutionalized discrimination, and Anna suggests that in our search for our voice or “brand”, one might lose sight of one’s empathy.

Reality Gap:

“Slowly and then all at once”, Rick Dow explains the circumstances that lead to the inexplicable. What moves essentially good people to make bad choices? We examine the roles of a declining middle class, decreased empathy, and the power of big money in setting the stage for “politics of fear and hate”. However, in a characteristic moment of optimism, Rick protests the idea of a zero-sum world and incites us to take action; to “defend the truth vigorously” and be “actively empathic”. Success, he reminds us, is the sum of small choices.

Laura Zommer’s mission, as she puts it, is to “increase the cost of lying”, in a world that flaunts a growing disregard of facts and increasing data manipulation. She takes us through the 7 types of “fake news” and warns us of the slippery slope that is confirmation bias. Journalism, she asserts, needs to change; it needs to evolve based on what the people need from it. The first steps? – Method transparency and audience involvement.

Lastly, Joan Lucariello explains the dual nature of our preconceptions and underlines the importance of understanding and dealing with misconceptions in particular. These, she tells us, are intrinsically linked to our knowledge base in such a way that “what we already know shapes our learning”. Next, we look at possible courses of action with respect to teaching, as well as different tools and strategies to challenge misconceptions in general. The daunting task of conceptual change becomes substantially more attainable.

Together on stage, Rick, Laura, and Joan’s answers are definitive. “Politicians do not care about facts because people do not care about facts”, but it is the public’s responsibility to seek and demand truth.

 

Empathic Design:

Alexander Laszlo invites us to reconsider empathy. He touches on empathic intelligence, the empathic imperative as well as he differentiates between cognitive and emotional empathy. Love, as the coexistence of legitimate others, is identified as a key element of our creativity. He declares that human systems should be designed with others and not for others.

To the audience’s delight, Alejandro Nieponice’s opening rundown of technological advances in his field includes impressive live footage. Once he has caught their attention, he discusses the future of robotized surgery and stresses the need for doctors to rediscover their role in a changing medical landscape. Asked about AI, he states that robots will never match human empathy.

Diego Fernández shares his experience with the task of breaking the 85-year-long isolation of the 46-hectare “Barrio 31”. We’re reminded of the importance of humility and patience in approaching a problem, and that valid solutions must be obtained as a joint effort. Finally, Diego stresses how critical it is to obtain feedback and praises prototypes as an essential tool to learn from and adapt a project.

In this segment’s debate, the speakers look at technology as a social gap closer. They advocate for problem-based learning and criticize generalizations and stereotypes, urging us to “give hope to find hope”. We’re offered a new definition of technology as “crystallized culture” and are invited to seek consonance, coherence, and lasting connections.

Natasha Hooper and Amen Ra’s powerful rendition of “Islamophobia” leaves us speechless. They ask us, in perfect unison, if we see it, and without stopping to catch their breath, they make sure that we do. They show us what it looks like when we let fear, hate, and ignorance win out over our shared humanity, and urge us to look further.

Lastly, Diego Luzuriaga helps us integrate the day’s themes with a skillful recap; a touching video conveys that “an open world begins with an open mind”, and Diego offers his closing thoughts.

“What is the purpose of our differences?”

“What is our greatest common denominator?”

“Could it be that our vulnerabilities bind us together?”

“What are you going to do?”

 

What are SABFers up to 13 years after the first edition?

*By Gisela de la Villa and Catalina Gálvez

After 3 days of having been sharing group activities, workshops, inspiring talks, dinners, and events alongside 99 other people, you may wonder if the connections you made and the time invested in so many learnings will be put to good use at home and in the future.

 

To show what the participants have been up to after having attended the SABF, we made a poll which we distributed just a few days before the 13th edition of the conference. In just two days, 61 participants from all editions replied, and we believe their responses are a clear reflection of what awaits the participants after having been through the event. So, dear 100 new chosen participants, prepare to read about what you’ll start living from tomorrow on!

 

SABF’s impact in a participant’s life

74% of the participants replied that the conference “was a great experience and influenced 100% my life after having participated”. The rest of them assure us that the SABF was a positive experience and they’re happy they’ve attended.

 

“SABF gave me my best friends, opened the doors to a whole new world of dynamic people, restless and intelligent, whom I wouldn’t have met otherwise. It opened the doors to infinite opportunities and many other conferences around the world!

 

 

Changes in behaviour and thinking

Over 75% affirms that the talks and having shared and discussed with young people from other cultures modified their way of thinking and seeing the world.

 

“We’ve questioned many concepts and we’ve been able to collectively discuss future perspectives from different points of view. Without a doubt, cultural and professional bias crumble when you share so much time and so many debates with other young people”.

 

“SABF left a permanent mark. Knowing that we live through different issues that share a common origin, and that that unites us even more in our wish to create a better world, was a turning point”.

“It motivated me to go beyond, to not settle for what I had accomplished so far”

“At a time at which I was still a university student, SABF introduced me to the world of entrepreneurship, social impact and collaborative work, which lead me to starting my own social enterprise”.

 

international opportunities

Most of those who answered the poll were inspired by SABF to seek similar opportunities. 77% claim it was the first of a series of conferences they attended, and nearly 20% are currently living outside their country of origin.

 

“Thanks to the SABF I’ve met incredible people who showed me a world of possibilities I didn’t know. Due to the event, I’ve travelled to Europe and the USA to attend (and even organize!) similar conferences in very prestigious universities, like IE (Spain) and Harvard (USA)”.

“I liked the format, the dynamics, the people, the content, and the general experience so much, that I’ve sought more conferences like SABF. I’ve been able to travel on a scholarship to Norway, Germany, Brazil, and it motivated me to build my own event for the youth, as well as leaving my country in search of new opportunities ”.

“After attending SABF, I’ve decided that my professional career didn’t have to remain local. It lead me to project my career internationally, on which I’m still working to this day”.

 

 

Lasting connections

After the question “what was the biggest impact the SABF had on your life”, all questions agree on the fact that they value the people you meet the most. These connections don’t stop at friendship, but also become business relationships. 26% affirm they’ve started up a project with another SABFer, and 18% tried.

 

SABFgave me my first job, a huge network, a political party of which I’ve been a part, and currently an enterprise I’ve co-founded. All this happened thanks to people I’ve met through SABF. I’ve also made friends scattered around the world”.

“Finding so many people with a genuine wish to make a positive impact on the world and finding like-minded people with whom to share ideas and nurture from them was a motivation and inspiration to not stay in my comfort zone ”.

“SABF gave me the chance to bond with people with a high impact on their communities, convincing myself that I’m one of them if I want to, incorporate a global and innovative view and, last but not least, meet my best friends, who are people I greatly admire”.

 

Plus, 92% says they’re still in touch with other participants of their same edition!

 

“Thanks to SABF, I met my girlfriend”.

 

We wish the greatest success to all 100 participants chosen for the 13th SABF edition! Use these days to learn, meet, talk and debate all you

Youth 20 Dialogue in Berlin

Some minutes with Julia Amerikaner, one of the argentine delegates.

The Youth 20 Dialogue is the official G20 forum for young people.  As the SABF, it’s objective is to gather young professionals of different cultures to tackle the future of the international agenda. In this edition, Julia Amerikaner was the argentine delegate.

 

SABF: Tell us a bit about the activities during those days.

Julia Amerikaner (JA): The conference lasted a week and more than 70 young participants from different countries and organizations were gathered. This year, not only delegates of the G20 countries were there, but other guest countries as well (like Norway and Singapore) and multilateral organizations, like the World Trade Organization, World Labour Organization, United Nations and regional organizations like the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

The final product was a special editorial of 25 pages that resumed the 10 topics that youth considers a priority. Between those: global economy, gender equality, digitalization, sustainable development, terrorism, migration and refugees, within others.

During the first days of the conference, we got together in informal workshops to discuss these topics and set forth recommendations for the G20 governments. Afterwards, each one of us chose a topic and worked on it in teams.  In between, we had the opportunity to meet experts in each field and enhance our work.  After the first draft, each team had to present their topic to the reset of the conference and we went through each point altogether.

Consensus was key: there were easily 5 drafts before getting to the final document (and a lot of nights up until 4 am!).  We discussed about which ideas to include (or even which entire paragraph should be deleted); the nature of the recommendations and the capacity of the governments to set them forth.

After closing the document, each group chose a speaker to present the theme to Merkel.  The speaker had two minutes to pitch their idea and, later on, accepted questions from Merkel.

 

SABF: How were the different topics developed? Which one interested you the most?

JA: At the beginning the topics were worked by everyone, it was an exchange of ideas, opinions and points of view.  Later, each participant had to focus on one topic in groups of 4 or 10 persons.  In my case, I was passionate about three:  anti-corruption, digitalization and gender equality.

Finally, I chose to work in the digitalization committee. To understand my decision, you should know that I work as an adviser in the Ministry of Culture of the Nation.  When I began, almost a year ago, everything was done on paper. Today I’m leading a project to implement a digital platform to organize the work at the Ministry; from the planifications of their activities to the budget execution.  I felt that I had a lot to contribute to the group and also had the chance to deepen my own knowledge and apply what was learnt in my country. I really feel that the modernization of the State is important to progress and to improve the quality of the services offered to the citizens.

 

SABF: As you worked on the digitalization topic, did you come across any uneasiness?

JA: I’ll make an observation (It could be considered as “uneasiness”) and I will say something very obvious:  Our context, the place where we grew up and the things that surround us, really define the way of seeing the world. I say this because I was surprised that the in the gender equality committee (composed entirely by europeans and none from Latin America) did not include gender violence in their first draft. The argentine delegation, together with the mexican, requested that it should be included in a paragraph in the official document about the gender violence and domestic violence.

This anecdote serves to emphasise that diversity, especially in a working group, is important.  I believe that if Argentina and Mexico would not have been part of the discussion, then gender violence would not have been included in a debate about equality; a terrible mistake, in my opinion.

 

SABF: At the time of promoting the objectives of the G20, what do you think is the role of Argentina and what do you think is the most urgent aspect to strengthen?

JA: I think Argentina has the unique opportunity next year as we are assuming the presidency of the G20.  There are only three latin american countries in the group (Mexico, Argentina and Brazil).  So I think Argentina can emphasize certain topics in a unique way: the poverty and migration as one of the most relevant.  I would also like the country to take a long term perspective and emphasis on sustainable development and politics on renewable energy, as well as gender equality and digitalization.

 

SABF: What did you want to pass over of Argentina to the rest of the countries?

JA: I became a very close friend of the delegations of Korea, Indonesia and Singapore. All of them said that I was the first argentine they met. That tells you everything.  As a delegate, you want to share the best of your country: the sympathy of Argentina, the friendship, but also the cleverness of argentines to solve problems.  I wanted to transmit that we were an open country, friendly and, above all, leave a good impression.

 

SABF: You had some training on public speaking, anything you would want to share about that?

JA: Thess conferences show the importance of public speaking. For the ones that don’t have much experience in this, I believe the most important part is to lose the fear and to try it: start speaking in public, by small steps, without embarrassment and with conviction.  At the moment of preparing a speech, the best thing is to write down what you want to transmit and generate something coherent.  Where one idea follows another one naturally.  Above all, be clear and concise, give examples.

 

SABF: One of the topics for Y20 was the lack of economic opportunities for young people and the lack of representation of youth in the global economy. According to statistics 25 per cent of youth in middle-income nations and 15 per cent in high income nations are NEETs: not in education, employment or training (OECD, 2017). What’s your perspective?

JA: This was one of the main topics: young employment.  It’s something that generates a lot of concern; from Latin America to Europe, Africa and Asia.  Above all, I believe that participation of youth in politics and social civil organizations is key.

 

SABF: How was it to share some moments with Angela Merkel?

JA: It was amazing.  I think that the presence of a Head of State — and someone as influential in the international scenery as Merkel– was a positive message to us and an important signal for youth.  It means “we care about what you are saying”, given that they generated the institutional space to give us a voice.  Also, Merkel had a lot of questions and she seemed interested.  It was not a “passive listening” on her behalf but she made us stand up for our points and develop others.  For the digitization team, she inquired about artificial intelligence and future challenges.

 

SABF: What are your expectations for the coming G20 in Argentina?

JA: I may be repeating myself a little… But my expectation is that this is a great opportunity for Argentina to itself before the world.  I would like to see us leading the regional agenda in topics such as digitization, gender equality and sustainable development.

 

SABF: Do you have an anecdote to share?

JA: Uf, thousands.  But I would like to tell one about how I met the delegate of Arabia Saudita. We both participated in a workshop about gender equality and as I talked (or she), a sense of complicity developed.  We had a lot in common, all of those who shared ideas were in sintony. She said something and I was thinking “yeah, that’s right”.  I said something and she would look at me like saying “I agree completely”.  When the workshop ended, she came to me and said “We haven’t met yet, right?” And I said “No, but we should”.  After that, and together with the delegate from Singapore, we spent hours talking about different topics, always feeling we had a special connection.  That’s something amazing that this kind of international conferences give: the chance to connect instantly with a person from a completely different environment, that you met two days ago.

 

SABF: From the global challenges that were set forward, which was your favourite?

JA: My favorite is Assuming Responsibility. Already it’s title expresses a key idea: what happens is our responsibility.  It’s time to assume that responsibility and be proactive at the moment of solving problems that unsettle the world for hundreds of years: wars, forced migration, sickness, injustice.  In a world evermore connected, I think it’s irresponsible to look the other way and say “this is not my problem”.  Someone else will not fix this and this will affect you too.  We all have the potential to be agents of change.

North Korea: the last frontier

In today’s world, where borders seem to have surrendered to the phenomenon of globalization and communism disappeared with the opening of Cuba and the collapse of the Soviet Union in the 90s, it remains an isolated Stalinist state.

The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea occupies the northern portion of the Korean peninsula. It is headed by the only case of a communist dynasty in the history established by the supreme leader and eternal president of Korea, Kim Jong-Il and is rule under the “Juche” ideology whose vocation regulates every aspect of the citizen’s life. It is a totalitarian regime based in the cult of personality of their leaders. After the death of supreme leader in 1994, came to power his son Kim Il-Sung and after his death in 2011, the current ruler Kim Jong-Un.

It is a heavily militarized regime with one of the largest armed forces in the world. This is so because the country is since ever in  state of war as a peace was never signed after the Korean War.

South Korea, a democratic and liberal regime has reached a high level of development is the south of the peninsula with support from the United States and Japan. Meanwhile the North Korean regime has seen its existence compromised with the fall of the Soviet regime and the inclusion of China in the economy and world order. While Beijing remains its mainstay, criticism from its biggest ally do nothing but increase.

It is in this context and with the coming to power of the supreme leader’s grandson, the positions and the rhetoric of the regime have been radicalized. The pursuit of nuclear weapon and the missile development has become a priority for the regime and its existence.

 

Current status

2017 has been a challenge year so far to the international community. North Korea feels its own existence in danger and it shows it with provocations and threats.

In March Koreans conducted a four missiles trail. The missiles traveled nearly a thousand kilometers, three of them reached Japanese waters. It is estimated that the exercise goal were US bases in Japan. China interceded in United Nations to calm down the reaction of the United States, South Korea and Japan. Since then the United States called to end the strategic patience towards the regime and South Korea expressed concern at the progress of North Korean missile program.

Two others missiles test were made, one in late March and another in April. Both of the without success. The issue was addressed at the meeting between President Trump and President Xi Jinping. Koreans threatened an unforgivable reaction to what they saw as an american provocation as the US announced and increasement of its presence in the peninsula.

The North Korean press made threats of nuclear attacks on American soil after the US announcement. Indeed it is estimated that a nuclear test site is operable since April.

In this context the Japanese reported that the North Koreans have the ability to launch warheads with sarin gas. North Korea announced that they will respond to any attack with total war. The regimes showed its potential during a military parade in occasion of the commemoration of the 105th anniversary of the birth of the Supreme Leader.

The Vice President of the United States,Pence, said that all options are on the table regarding the Korean crisis and recommended the regime not to test the determination of President Trump.

Japan meanwhile urged North Korea to refrain from further provocations and claims to the role of China in the conflict.

However, North Korea did another missile test unsuccessfully as it exploded after launched. Pope Francis called for a peaceful solution to the Korean crisis.

In May North Korea announced that it can conduct a nuclear test at any time and call for the immediate suspension of US anti-missile shield.

A new President in South Korea assumed after a political crisis and corruption scandal, saying o be ready to travel to North Korea if the conditions were acceptable. It was the end of 10 years of conservative government in South Korea. Nevertheless North Koreans tested the new South Korean president with another missile test. The White House called for tougher sanctions to the regime. Moscow and Beijing were concerned at the escalation of tension. The European Union considered North Korea as a threat to international peace.

Furthermore the United States and Japan called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council after two missiles tests in less than 15 days. Russia called to stop intimidation to North Korea.

In this context  a massive cyberattack occurred and there were strong versions that It could have been originated in North Korea. At the United Nations, Washington and Beijing prepare a resolution with sanctions against the regime. 18 companies and regime figures were sanctioned. In response North Korea conducted a new missile test. UN called North Korea a threat to international security.

In June the North Koreans again tested a missile showing significant progress. The death of the US extradited prisoner, Otto Warmbier, created new tensions between the administration and the regime Trump. It was first accused of stealing a propaganda poster during his visit to North Korea.

 

An agenda for Korea

The evolution of the first half of the year shows that North Korea feels threatened and it believes that the only solution is the development of technology: a kind of technology that will make extremely dangerous a possible invasion.

The only deterrent will be the nuclear weapon as well as the missiles to reach South Korean, Japanese and even American soil and so neutralize any threat to the regime.
The objective of the North Korean regime is causing a high cost to any military intervention on its territory. And there is not one greater than the nuclear, so it is difficult that they will give up the development of this technology.

The sanctions have not been effective as in the case of Iran, as the North Korean economy is not integrated into the international economy and the North Koreans seem not revealed by harsher condition. The famine between 1995-1997 is a clear example of this.

The role of the Chinese and Russian governments is critical to achieving a resolution to the conflict as they have a certain influence in the regime.

Any attitude and demonstration of force will only reinforce the alleged weakness experienced by the regime. It will increase the regime desire of the nuclear weapon.

Only dialogue and multilateral negotiations will find the solution to the Korean problem.

Will the international community give an opportunity to build bridges of trust and to avoid what it looks like a inevitable all-or-nothing confrontation?

The day that politics became part of consumer goods

Are the political party, the electoral platform, the electoral promises, the government objectives and / or the candidate’s experience and training important? Do we consider some of these variables when we have to vote? How much do we empathize with political candidates depending on the words they use, colors, how they communicate or their advertising spots?

Today politics have become a consumer good. It is a product that is created precisely with the goal of being consumed, being elected and meeting certain personal goals or a space. This is not new, but the turning point is when the image becomes more important than the content.

For the image to become relevant, it is necessary to have a team behind it that builds from zero a candidate. Therefore, candidates become mere products of a market that moves according to the demands and perceptions of civil society. This construction takes into account from the physical image, to speeches, verbal and non-verbal language, political discourse, and the actions they perform. Even though they are part of a political party, they seek to avoid being categorized merely in the party and reach as many spaces as possible. The parties are used as mere promotion platforms, losing the sense of belonging to it and generates a collective identity in which we know what to say and how to say it.

To achieve this, polls of public opinion on issues of interest are closely followed. The strategy is no longer based on purely political analysis, but also on marketing. It is important a strategy with a clear and persistent basis, but that also has the capacity to adapt to the fluctuations of everyday life. Precisely, the essence is creativity.

It is often said that brands in industry use marketing not only to meet needs but also to create them. Politics are beginning to use the same conception. Candidates respond to certain needs that civil society evidence, but candidates also through discourse create the imaginary collective of new needs that they and only they are able to satisfy. This becomes a key when people internalize that need. For this, the need must be well thought out, it must be deeply designed.

The media, although they are positioned as actors that objectively report reality, they are not. That is why politics uses them as a mechanism of transmission, not for official campaign advertising, but in daily programs, from news to programs of general interest. Today’s politicians must have the ability to interact with political analysts in the same way that journalists do. Why? Because the politics has become a show. It takes the politicians off the stage in which they develop their work, and they are humanized, but humanized as celebrities where everything they do is news.

A valuable example is Donald Trump, who was criticized and delegitimized in all major US media, while, at the same time, he was on the news every day. His strategy was to hold every day, to make his image the most seen and best known. It was more important to see him than what he really represented and said. Politics ceases to be an idea and a call to action, and becomes an acting role, where civil society plays the role of spectator vis-a-vis candidates and politicians who have the leading roles.

Furthermore, the new technologies of information and communication are being as important, like social networks that allow politicians to have a first-person link with their followers or even with their detractors. Although those who manage the networks are not the politicians themselves, the idea is generated that they are and that is a tool that brings that gap between governors and ruled closer.

Marketing is the central element that structures political campaigns strategies as a consequence of the increasing mediatization of politics. Today, more than ever, we can speak about the press or the media, understood in a broad vision of the concept to be able to be incorporated to the TICs, like the fourth power. That Big Brother who sees and analyzes everything, but with a subjective position.

It is in this way that politics gradually have become a spectacle, a show, a product that citizens consume, whether conscious or not. It will depend on civil society itself, citizens, on how to interpret this new face of politics. Now the question is: as citizens are we aware of this new policy role or do we consume it as if it was any product?

Chechnya: Rethinking the bonds that bind us

Leaving aside the need for subtitles in order to understand Russian, there is nothing keeping us from instantly empathizing with the words of Vyacheslav: one of the victims of the decadent state of the fight for human rights in the Russian Federation. A couple of months ago, hundred of men have been kidnapped, tortured and even murdered by Russian security forces in the Chechen region. All of them men suspects of “homosexual behaviours”. The first ones to report this terrible situation were members of Novaya Gazeta, a Russian organization specialized in human right investigations. A unique and discrete report, that follows the long tradition of censorship towards opinions that oppose the official ones, and particularly the ones calling out on the terrible state of LGBTG+ rights in the Russian Federation, fearing retaliation, kidnaps and more tortures.

Human rights organizations such as Amnesty International (1) and Human Right Watch have manifested their concern towards the situation and have called on the Russian authorities to set in motion investigations and programs to ensure victim’s safety. The level of disinterest and denial of the authorities is unbelievable. Everything comes together while hearing the terrible speech (2) of the head of the Chechen Republic, Ramzan Kadyrov, who not only denied the existence of homosexuals in the Republic but also added that: “If there were, their families would take care of sending them somewhere they would never come back from.” The homophobia in the region reaches tremendous levels, with evidence of the so called honor murders in which the families are the ones who murder the victims, for putting on the tight rope not only their honor but also their most firm ideals.

Vyacheslav and the rest of the Russian citizens, share a culture, a language, and a history. They have lived surrounded by the same smoke. Regardless, an Argentine a thousand kilometers away with whom he doesn’t share almost anything, understands his perspective more clearly than the rest of those Russian citizens, who did not doubt for one second to shoot him, kick him in his ribs or yell at him: “Where are you going fagot?”. How can all the shared history and culture be forgotten only to focus on a much more irrelevant aspect of the identity, such as sexuality, that is currently the only bond binding Vyacheslav to that Argentine a thousand kilometers away.

Two persons, that apparently do not share anything, that live on two different sides of the Earth, that do not share the same language or think in terms of the same culture, can bond over one miniscule portion of their identity. That detail of our identity can be used to find a starting point, a place where we can begin building something together. This detail was more important than what the main pieces of anyone’s identity, like their national identity, their religion, their history or their culture were. How many details such as this can be found in order to build bonds that cross frontiers and challenge the limits settled by the most obvious and traditional pieces of our identity? It is important to take a moment to question and explore each of the things that influence our way of thinking. To go through that drawer full of little bricks, recognizing them and understanding why they are there and which role they play in our upbringing. By doing this we can find points in common with the rest of the people. We just need one shared detail, even though it is lost among thousands of other pieces that seem irreconcilable.

After reading about the situation in Chechnya, a quote I heard in a Ted talk a couple of years ago came back to me.

…because, aren’t you lucky that you don’t live in Uganda (3)

Privilege? Yes. Luck? Yes. But even if I lived in Uganda, Chechnya or Argentina, there are obviously bonds that bind people that go much further than geography, religion of national identity. Even though it is true that I do not live in Chechnya, and that I do not suffer first hand the terrible atrocities that Vyacheslav had to suffer, there is a bond that binds us and that allows me to share the suffering. The suffering that serves as power to make everything better, to fight for a better reality. The suffering that we both share but that the rest of the Russian citizens that perpetuate these atrocities don’t. The suffering that ignores frontiers and that allows us to cooperate regardless of our differences. Once more the national identity is diminished by another not so irrelevant aspect of our identity. Once more it comes to evidence that the traditional frontiers are left behind, that there are new ways of connecting thoughts and perspectives. It is a new way of understanding cooperation and building new starting points.

Diversity in tech and why we need it

It is a wide known fact within the industry of IT that there’s not a lot of diversity among people who build the internet. Why is this a problem and why should we address it?

Technology is everywhere. We use technology to communicate with our peers at work, with our families, with our friends. We use technology to search for information, we use it to get our news, we use it to learn and to grow. Being such an omnipresent factor in our lives, in everyone’s lives, it is imperative that technology is built for everyone. Moreover, it’s important that technology is built by everyone.

While it is true that most people are born naturally empathetic, there’s only so much our empathy can go. To give a silly yet relatable example, last weekend we forgot to purchase vegan sweets for an event. The reason being: it’s always been our (then absent) vegan friend who thought about those things. One can make an extra effort to be empathetic and walk in someone else’s shoes, but not sharing their reality only allows us to do it to some extent.

Of course, the lack of empathy when building a product can go beyond sensitivities and affect functionality as well. A clear example of that are facial recognition algorithms. Take the case of Joy Buolamwini, an African-American MIT student, whose face was not being consistently recognised by the face-detection algorithms she was using to complete her studies. In order to test her assignments, she even had to recur to wearing a white mask to increase contrast in low-light environments and have her face detected.

Does this mean that whoever created the face detection algorithms is racist, or that the algorithm has a racist bias? Not at all. Most face detection programs use artificial intelligence, where a neural network needs to be trained with a set of samples (in this case, faces), that will allow it to determine patterns to match against. The main cause for black faces not being recognised, or Asian eyes detected as closed, is that the set of samples used for training the neural network was not diverse enough.

While it can seem hard to, as individuals, influence how a phone screen blocker detects Asian eyes or how crime prevention algorithms identify suspects, the truth is that we all have a part to play. Diversity is key, and we all can start by encouraging others to become involved. Examples of this are Rails Girls and Django Girls among others, which are organisations aimed at increasing the proportion of women in tech, and Black Girls Code, which aims to increase the number of women of color in the digital space. Another great example is the Algorithmic Justice League, created by the aforementioned Joy to highlight algorithmic bias.

If you feel identified with any of these stories, get involved. If you ever found it difficult to use an app or website due to your ethnicity, age or disabilities, get your community involved. Educate them, attract them to the industry. Increase diversity in the development teams and in the test groups. If you didn’t, if you’ve never had any struggles at all, make a special effort to become aware of social bias. Start by looking at your surroundings. Inspect the company you work at and analyse whether it’s diverse enough. Encourage diversity. Improve tech.

Elections in France: France is in danger, save it!

 

In 1940 General Charles De Gaulle  called from exile the French to save the nation from falling under the Nazi yoke. Today this call to action is more relevant than ever.

The French will decide the 25 ° President of the French Republic in an international and European context with two very different models: the unionist spirit and the values of democracy and globalization against populism who encourages old fears and it proposes a paradigm shift in terms of integration and exchange..

The truth is that election in France can be only understood in the context of a model of integration and free trade global crisis. Donald Trump’s election as President of the United States and the exit of the United Kingdom of the European Union were the first big breaks of this process that began with the financial crisis of 2008.

In the French case is particularly important the multicultural model crisis product and heritage of an imperial past that is manifested by the lack of integration of ethnic and religious minorities. The wave of attacks that the country experience does nothing but encourage fear and misunderstandings.

So that after Sunday’s elections  two candidates, two models and two visions of the world face each other. And beyond campaigns they are both product of the French establishment.

On one hand Marine Le Pen, candidate of the far right “National Front”. Mediocre student, daughter of the leader and founder of the National Front. Se has been since ever in the political arena. The daughter of the system that it says to face  but it is indeed a product of the most extremist and nationalist sectors of the hexagon.

On the other hand Emmanuel Macron, candidate for “En Marche!”. Outstanding student, representative of the French financial establishment, member of the outgoing President Hollande team as Minister of Economy, Macron is not either a newcomer to the French political arena.

However they are both representatives of nontraditional forces. The crisis also embrace the traditional political parties:the Republicans, who have remained outside the second round with the defeat of its candidate Francois Fillon and the Socialist Party that has had its worst election.

Many French are faced the dichotomy of choosing the lesser evil in a context of widespread disenchantment. The political class has appeared mostly under the principle of “republican pact” so that both the current President Francois Hollande as the right candidate Francois Fillon have openly expressed their support to the candidate Macron.

Macron represents the continuity of a central France in Europe with the principles of secularism and respect for minorities as flags. Also marks an encouraging profile for entrepreneurs and businesses to boost job creation.

Many of the disadvantaged by the globalization, as those formerly industrial areas in the north support Marine Le Pen. Lack of opportunities and fear of differences and the wave of Islamic extremism leads to endanger the French Republic

There are times where one should stop being warm and run aside the pretended objectivity because the danger is too great and will imply costly consequences.

We must speak openly against Marine Le Pen, for being xenophobic, contrary to the republican and democratic values, anti-European and destructive.

Despair and disenchantment has already led  Europe to fatal elections that have cost millions of lives.

For the good of France, of Europe and of all humanity, Marine Le Pen is not an option.

Beyond our borders

Technology is the vehicle of how we should see the political landscape today ~ Peter Thiel (Co-Founder of PayPal)

Have you ever thought we live in a chaotic society run by politicians who are proud of their long-term lack of vision? There is a place where people have a vision, with idead to make our society more efficient and virtual at the same time.

A technology-driven society where bureaucracy and current political issues are problems of the past, that’s Silicon Valley. Populated by programmers, entrepreneurs and capital investors, those are the ones shaping this new world.

How is this ideal of society?

We can see an example. There are only 193 countries with more than 7 billion people. We have much more variety of smartphones models than countries with our culture and vision that we want to be part of. If there were hundreds of floating cities, we would choose according to our needs the one that suits us best. With how diverse we are, we should not be forced to choose something that does not culturally represent us. Peter Thiel and Patri Friedman (founder of Seasteading Institute) dream of living in a city where the laws are written by investors. It is not crazy to think this, since Tim Draper, founder of Draper University, proposes to divide the state of California into 6 smaller states, one of them being Silicon Valley. This idea of ​​decentralization is the new idea of ​​what the “new politics of tomorrow” should be. And this can be seen with, for example, Bitcoin, whose underlying structure is called the Blockchain. Basically, and broadly speaking, Blockchain is a network of connected computers where no one has a greater hierarchy over another, and this in addition creates transparency. Returning to the example of floating cities, which is a project of the Seasteading Institute, they will have the following characteristics:

  1. It will be easier for many people to join the country as the island will be in a protected area of ​​the sea of ​​a host country.
  2. There will be a political exchange, autonomous, for economic, social and environmental benefits with the country that covers the island
  3. Cities will be environmentally friendly, and may be reconditioned according to needs
  4. The price of the square meter will be similar for what is paid in cities like New York or London.

And you, will you be like those 1000 people who said they wanted to live on a floating platform?

What would be of Sherlock without Dr. Watson? The case of data analytics.

Being able to tell a good story is as important as good data analysis.

Sherlock had the ability to analyze and put together odd pieces of events. But his findings were set on paper in a catching way by his friend Dr. Watson. Being able to tell a good story is as important as having the right data analysis to back it up.

Traditionally, concerns were focused on how to minimize data processing time and how to build a model with the highest predictive value. Today’s concerns are towards what actions can be taken based on predictive modelling and what constituencies will support or block implementation.

“Data, hardware, and software are available in droves, but human comprehension of the possibilities they enable is much less common.” Tom Davenport. HBR.

Data analytics is without question on the rise and it was enabled by technology. Today there are thousands of businesses that collect vast amounts of data but are at a loss when trying to put this information to use[1].

Why are both important?

In an organization efforts are aligned through its strategic objectives and in most cases data allows to measure progress in order to reach these objectives. Within the decision making processes in organizations people with tech and non-tech skills coexist and both are equally important. “Without data you’re just another person with an opinion.” As said by Deming.  But without a hypothesis/objective you’re just a person with data. Communicating proposals validated on data points and generating consensus throughout the organization drives meaningful new ideas. Enabling to leverage data in order to achieve business results and create insight.

When does analytics fail? The case of Netflix

A couple of years ago Netflix launched a $1 million prize for the team that could come up with an algorithm that improved by 10 points the current match making of recommendations.  So the algorithm was developed and there was a winner but it was never implemented because Netflix changed its service from DVD-by-mail to streaming.  Meaning the whole organization was changing and the algorithm developed was rendered useless in most part[2].

References:

[1] http://burning-glass.com/research/hybrid-jobs/

[2] http://techblog.netflix.com/2012/04/netflix-recommendations-beyond-5-stars.html