Marking the 2018 Data Science Week milestone with WiTWA, Bankwest and Startup Grind

Opened by WiTWA’s Pia Turcinov and Bankwest’s GM of Everyday Banking, Lousie Vegar, we saw more than 100 Women in Technology WA (WiTWA) members and friends gathered in Bankwest’s beautiful outdoor courtyard for networking, drinks and the best party pies ever as we waited to hear from four esteemed and delightfully different panellists in the field. 

Teresa Harding from BankwestChris Nelson from CSIRO's Data61, and Elizabeth Antoine from Microsoft were facilitated by Andy Lamb from Startup Grind and Diana Adorno from WiTWA and ThoughtWorks. The topic? The age-old question: Data - good, bad or indifferent? 

The session was presented in an entirely accessible and inclusive manner to a mixed audience heralding from a variety of backgrounds. Whilst I can safely say no-one in the room last night was indifferent to the value of data and the myriad of ways it is being used, there were certainly some people that were more vocal in the Q&A session than others on the various degrees of evil it represents. ‘When data goes bad’ quickly became the secondary theme to the evening. 

In summary Chris Nelson’s view was that as long as corporates are driving data collection and third party use for profit in the market, their intention is not likely to be aligned with the greater good.  Andy (King of Disrupters) Lamb agreed that clever tech has a place in our modern society and said, “the future is bright and data is certainly part of it”. Theresa Harding summed it up with; “Kids of the future will be unconscious consumers of the world around them. Their data and behaviour in the public sphere will profile them within an inch of their lives”.

We canvassed the opt-out for data collection services too. For example that message that pops up asking permission to drop cookies on your desktop when you peruse a new site, and the geotech data that tracks your every move when your mobile is in your pocket, allowing restaurants to offer you specials when you’re in the neighbourhood, or your phone to predict your driving patterns so when you jump in the car at 5pm on a Friday it can inform you that the traffic is heavy and it will take you 22 minutes to get home.

And Google’s recent example of the newly announced feature called Google Duplex was also cited for debate (good, bad or indifferent?). It uses artificial intelligence technology to generate a natural-sounding voice assistant, able to make a phone call on a user’s behalf, hold a conversation, and book a restaurant reservation or hair appointment without you needing to even pick up the phone. Other than pranking and inappropriate calls, the security industry and the individual concerned with ethics and privacy will need to consider the downsides of this new tech.

Artificial intelligence expert Hussein Abbass of the UNSW Canberra told the media; …"AI Duplex collects people’s voice signatures to continue training the robot and even its own voice seems to be a synthesis of one or more human voices. (People) need to be aware how their data gets used and they need to offer explicit consent for the collection of the data and for the intended use of the data”.

The #witwa committee are Kay Hargreaves Donna Edwards Lucie Hammond Anitra Robertson Diana Adorno Pia Turcinov Maree Morrell and Lacey Filipich.

The next event will be a TechXchange gathering on Disruption and the Rise of Portfolio Careers, featuring Melissa Langdon from Bossmama, Josh Richards, our resident and much loved Mars One Astronaut candidate, and Shona Rowan, Peak Performance Specialist and Ballroom Dancing Champion.

More details can be found on the WiTWA website.

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