Technological culture highlighted as a powerful tool at CWA

Panelists listen to Eva Hagberg Fisher tell her story. April 11, 2018 (Fiona Matson / Independent CU)

The 70th Annual Global Affairs Conference brought varied discussions among stakeholders on technology trends. Artificial intelligence (AI), net neutrality and blockchain were among the many topics discussed.

Nearly 100 speakers from around the world have been invited to speak at the week-long Global Affairs Conference, held at CU Boulder each spring. The panels focus on a range of topics, from the arts to environmental sustainability.

During the various panels, speakers noted the audience’s concern, apparent in frequent nods and disturbing questions. The panelists took this opportunity to stress the importance of being technologically proficient.

“People need to be aware of how devices work,” said Deborah Bryant, senior director of open source and standards for Red Hat. Bryant’s comment was made during a panel focused on collecting data on the privacy concerns of smart devices, like Amazon’s Alexa.

Bryant discussed how tech companies like Amazon extract information from consumers. She used Congressional Facebook’s current investigation, which allowed political consultancy Cambridge Analytica to sell Faecbook user data, as an example of the ramifications of a self-regulating tech industry.

While Bryant was clear on her take that tech companies should be held accountable for their actions, she finds it equally important that users know what they’re signing up for.

Similar sentiments were echoed during a panel titled “Technology Gone Wild”. Heather Roff, arresearcher for Google DeepMind, encouraged the public to learn more about the technology industry.

“As a community, we need to become more technologically savvy,” Roff said.

Roff and other panelists at “Technology Gone Wild” spoke about the current and long-term effects of technology on society and the economy. AI has been cited repeatedly as the number one reason people move in the workplace. Panelists stressed that regulating technology is the only way to ensure the best interests of others.

However, the benefits of technology were presented by panelists at “Activism vs. Apathy: When Clicking ‘Like’ Is Not Enough. The panel dealt with social issues and how groups form movements using social media.

Writer and activist Eva Hagberg Fisher used the survivors of the Parkland, Florida shooting as examples of the power of social media.

“These kids know how to use Twitter,” Fisher said.

Fisher said she was sexually harassed while a student at Berkeley by a professor. After two years of silence, she spoke out against the university, ultimately serving as the main supporter of a change in Berkeley policies. For her, the ability to share her story on social media has allowed others to connect with her.

CU student Noell Videon finds social media a “huge tool” for having a voice as a student.

“A lot of people saw it as a hindrance to doing anything, but shown in the Parkland shoot, it’s a huge way to engage people and educate them,” Videon said.

The ‘Bombastic Blockchain’ panel explored the pros and cons of emerging blockchain technology that enables decentralized digital ledgers and has become fundamental in bitcoin trading.

Panel moderator Richard Polk asked the audience several questions about the tech terms and asked them to raise their hands if they understood the meaning. Several times only a few spectators raised their hands.

CU student Zach Huui compared this lack of understanding to the recent migration of desire to learn (d2l) to Canvas. Huui finds that his teachers aren’t as engaged in the new Canvas landscape as they should be.

“It really impacted my studies and my grades,” Huui said. “I think this needs to be understood a lot better for the interests of the student.”

Despite divergent views on the impact of technology for good and bad purposes, panelists emphasized the global importance of technology and the Internet in today’s society.

April Rinne, speaker for Sharing Economy, spoke specifically to students about how important it is to be aware of issues such as net neutrality and AI.

“Internet access is revolutionizing,” said Rinne. “[Students] are going to be among the first generation to feel the full impact of this. “

Contact Rob Tann, editor-in-chief of CU’s independent press team, at [email protected]

About Shirley L. Kreger

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