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What It Means To Be ‘Human’ In A World of Technology

I’ve been truly honoured to Chair the 2017 New Zealand CIO Summit, helping Conferenz and IDC create an event to engage, recognize, and delight national technology executives. During my opening speech, I introduced myself by saying, “I’m Rachel and I’m the Human that will be guiding you over the next two days”.

I closed the summit clarifying how seriously I take the word ‘Human’ as a means to describe me. That one descriptor is missing from my bio, because it is always assumed and often taken for granted.

We have a future in which the advancement of technology will force us to look very hard at what it takes to be human. To consider what is important in our journey, our ‘squiggly line’, and our ability to contribute to the world using technology as a tool. The importance of collaboration, co-creation, inspiration, and creativity.

These elements all require a spectrum of emotion and acknowledgement of our own individual weakness, that are overcome by working with people who encourage you to be the person you actually are, while they complement those parts that you are not. By leading through doing the right thing, not just ‘managing’ by doing things right.

My own technology journey into machine learning and my thoughts on creating a kind and thoughtful artificial intelligence (AI) has exemplified how important it is to, not only be a good parent to my 4 and 6 year old, but also to the AI that we are working on – how it nurtures people’s experiences by keeping humans at the very heart of everything we do. As a by product of this process, I have learnt to embrace the person I am, and shed off the stiff, stoic personality I felt I had to become working in corporate America.

It is because of the countless hours spent considering the birth and nurturing of an artificial intelligence, I have had to consider my own ‘Human’. I have realized that I can be kind, authentic, love to laugh, be really smart and be an incredible technology leader. Those are also ‘Human’ attributes I’d like to emulate and nurture in an artificial intelligence. But much like the human condition, we have to also expect the dark side of our nature, to which we can try to mitigate through code and counter algorithm measures. We must face and accept that it will exist, because we (the creator) are also incredibly flawed.

I hope the by product of any technology design and application in your own professional lives helps you to consider your very personal and very human journey too.

I want to thank all of those who stopped to say ‘hi’, encouraged, and took care of me as Chair. Thank you to those women and men who are looking, and have found in me, another kindred spirit on their professional journey in technology. I have been inspired and humbled, simultaneously. Be the Human you were born to be, and if it sings a song in your heart, go change the world.

By Rachel Kelly and originally published here.

Photo: Left to Right: Rachel Kelly, Eva Sherwood, Andrea Hancox and Katarina Kolich

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