We are living in such strange and uncertain times – the world as we know it has changed dramatically over the past few months, from the Australian bush fires, to COVID-19, to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and the Black Lives Matter protests. We are hearing and seeing news stories all the time about the inequalities that the COVID-19 crisis has unearthed, and watching the Black Lives Matter protests drawing crowds of thousands, fighting for racial equality, despite being in the middle of a global pandemic. This is a human emergency.
It’s left a lot of us feeling unsure and helpless. So what can we do? Want to do something positive on anti-racism and all other forms of discrimination but not sure how? It can be super daunting, but it’s important – and the right thing to do. The Power to the People! webinar explores allyship and activism in 2020, and provides information on how we can all become better allies to marginalised groups. This session will help you to understand your own place in the world and equip you to stand in solidarity against inequality.
Here's a few main points from the video:
What is Black Lives Matter? – and why do we say that?
Black Lives Matter is an international human rights movement which campaigns against violence and systemic racism towards black people. Systemic racism is not just a United States thing. It’s here in the United Kingdom too. Black people are systematically discriminated against worldwide. All lives will matter when #BlackLivesMatter. We say Black Lives Matter because black lives should matter as much as white lives do, and it doesn’t mean that other lives don’t matter. We are focussing specifically on the discrimination that Black people face in our societies. Saying “all lives matter” takes the attention away from Black lives, who are the ones in danger. Black people are disproportionately impacted by systematic racism and police violence in both the UK and US.
Here’s an easier example to explain it. Saying “all lives matter” is like going to the doctor with a broken leg, and the doctor saying “all bones matter”. Yes, all bones do matter – but the broken leg needs attention first. That is why we use the specific phrase “Black Lives Matter”.
Privilege and our space in the world
Privilege is invisible to those who have it and it’s really important to understand our own privileges in our quests to become allies. Understanding our personal power and privileges is an opportunity, and nothing to feel guilty for. Guilt isn’t helpful. We can’t help who we are and what world we were born into. It’s a powerful tool to foster empathy with others, increase our understanding and play a part in correcting some of the injustices in society. Skip to 8:30 for an exercise where you can explore your personal privilege.
How can we take action and become an ally to those who need it?
There are so many ways to take action – these are just a few.
The most important task of all as an ally is to listen and be there for others. Standing in solidarity with marginalised groups is the right thing to do, no matter how uncomfortable it makes us feel – it’ll make a real positive impact, and we will start seeing movement towards a better future. I want to end with a great quote by Ijeoma Oluo.
“The beauty of anti-racism is that you don't have to pretend to be free of racism to be an anti-racist. Anti-racism is the commitment to fight racism wherever you find it, including in yourself. And it's the only way forward.”
Over the past few weeks I've been asked "how do you think of that?" about several of my projects, especially the Success Studio programme at Henley Business School. Honestly, it looks like a lot of additional work and creativity - but it's genuinely really easy. In my opinion, to really get your topic embedded in the learners' minds, you really need to put a spin on it. Something that will stand out and make them remember the session. It needs to be experiential and hands-on.
A quick way of coming up with a unique delivery method is taking the topic/skill area that you're trying to teach and think "where else does this skill get used?". The Success Studio uses this technique, and we have proof it really works. 99% of attendees in 2018 said they're more likely to take action on their career planning and 69% felt an increase in confidence in the taught skills - as a direct result of the programme. Presentation skills becomes Stand Up Comedy, decision making becomes Improv, problem solving is delivered by LEGO Serious Play... you catch my drift!
I LOVE using the Design Thinking process to design workshops and materials. It starts with the end user in mind (in this case, a student) and allows you to really step into their shoes and create something that is not only relevant but interesting and engaging for them.
I'll give you an example of how to use this process. Say I’m wanting to run a skills workshop on teamwork and collaboration for Undergraduate students... I would follow these steps;
Empathise: I’d think around the subject i.e If I were a student, what would I want? How would I feel? How would an international student feel/want to engage? I’d also ask a few key students that fit the “stereotypical” student groups we have i.e a keen engaged student, an international student, a MSc student etc.
Define: I’d look at the problem I’m trying to face – in this case, a workshop that has low attendance numbers. What are the challenges? What really doesn’t seem to work?
Ideate: This is my favourite part. Brainstorm the workshop and GO CRAZY. Seriously. No idea is a bad idea – trust me. Anything can spring from one idea. Get a few colleagues to do the same – get them to go crazy too.
If I were to quickly brainstorm this now I’d think “where else is this skill used?” – so for example, ideas could include; in a restaurant kitchen, in sports, in A&E, in an emergency, in gymnastics/dance, in theatre, in problem solving under pressure, in brainstorming/ideation, creating a start-up, going to space!
We love to do post-it brainstorms in our team, we have a wall or table quite literally FULL of post-it note ideas (and we do this for everything from naming of programmes to workshop ideas to internal problem-solving)
Prototype: Bring all your favourite ideas together and start to piece together a workshop – so OK, maybe going to Space can’t really be simulated (or can it?!) but definitely some of the others – can you hire a campus kitchen and someone to teach cookery? Can you get someone from the emergency services to run a mock emergency and get students to work out how to handle it? Can you create a problem-solving under pressure game?
Sometimes you have to go for a more “sensible” option – and that’s OK too. So as long as it’s delivered in a way that your target audience would appreciate or find relevant, in theory, this should work.
Test: Don’t be afraid. Just go for it! See what happens. We can’t learn or change anything unless we try. If you’re concerned, try just one session and see how it goes down.
Collect decent feedback, something useful. I like to do an impact analysis on confidence/skills increase; asking the same questions at the beginning of the session, and then at the end to see if it changes. You then also have decent data you can use to prove whether something works or not.
In addition to that, I love to make sure all learners' needs are met . I follow the VARK model (but to be honest, you could use Honey & Mumford, VAK etc.) to ensure that my sessions engage each type of learner. Example;
Gamification is also key, if you can add this in. There’s loads of awesome online resources to help you with this, but essentially, it’s taking your workshop delivery and really adding to it. A game – be it a physical game, board game or video game – is an arena that will enable the player to fail easily. The idea is: "what is the worst that can happen if you don’t win?" Learners can feel that it’s is safe to fail in the environment you’ve created and there’s no repercussions. Gamification leads to intrinsic reinforcement (rewarded by feeling of success), which is a really powerful engagement tool. The more learners succeed, the more they want to succeed, the more they want to engage in your workshop.
... so that was a very crude, quick few tips on how to create a more engaging and conducive learning environment - no matter what subject you are delivering.
I strongly believe that no idea is a bad idea, after all, it can really spark some other really awesome thought processes. Just go for it, give your idea a chance and fail fast. Nothing major is going to happen and whether your workshop is a success or not, you're going to really learn from the experience.
The main thing we can all agree on is that the difference between humans and machines is emotion. Robots can’t feel hurt, anger, happiness or joy and don’t care about how they are treated (yet!).
If you haven’t already, get on YouTube and watch the video of Boston Dynamics and their backflipping robot (Atlas) that is programmed to move smoothly, pick itself up if it gets knocked over and continue on with the task at hand.
See how this video makes you feel – does it fascinate you, or is it uncomfortable watching?
When Boston released their video of Atlas in action, complete with a guy and a hockey stick prodding him to push “him” over – there was an outcry from the public. It made people feel deep routed empathy, a feeling that they were watching a grown man “bully” a “defenceless” robot.
So where is the line between human emotion and artificial intelligence? It’s definitely a lot more blurred than you think.
Dolby – the film and television sound experts – has developed their own biophysical lab measuring human emotions in order to “hack” Hollywood. Neuroscientists are currently studying how audio and video can affect the human body. Volunteers are hooked up to wires upon wires measuring their heartbeat, what makes their faces flush, and their specific reactions to movies. On top of this, lie detectors are used to ensure that the feedback given is as accurate as possible. Films like Up and Inside Out are classic examples of films that have been tweaked and improved in order to invoke as much emotion as possible, based upon direct feedback from these studies (and who hasn’t cried at Up?!). Inside Out‘s scene where baby Joy is born was specifically created to evoke a physiological feeling of pain, a reflection of real life birth. This kind of technological response is already happening, and you won’t even know it.
So how does this translate into the future world of work and recruitment?
Well – on a larger scale, it seems human emotions detected by machines will be up for sale, in order to boost user experience. Organisations are now thinking about a multi-sensory space, and how they can create not only emotional but physiological reactions to entertainment and beyond. Netflix and Hulu are using eye-tracking devices to measure user reactions to their app interfaces. So how long is it until Careers Services, HR departments and pretty much any other service start to measure reactions in order to create the ultimate experience? Imagine being able to tweak what we do in order to effectively engage and evoke the best reactions in our students, staff and customers…
It’s already happening in recruitment; Unilever are using HireVue’s AI to scan video interviewees’ emotions in order to detect inherent traits, body language and tone. It seems those days of being able to exaggerate certain parts of your CV are over! Will allowing AI to aid us in making recruitment decisions based on facial recognition decrease unconscious bias? What kind of ethical dilemmas does selling human emotions for user experience and ultimately profit, bring?
The future is upon us and whether we like it or not; through entertainment, service design and technology. You could already be experiencing this blurred line between machine and human – and you wouldn’t even know.
Did you know that a third (35%) of UK workers are excited about the prospect of their own personal AI assistant? Having an AI assistant could increase human work productivity and give workers back 12 working days a year by taking on admin tasks, Henley’s research suggests. As we can probably all agree – these changes are really exciting, but how exactly will this work in practice?
2018 has been a year of changes and predictions; Dr David Hanson – the creator of the world-famous Sofia robot – has predicted that robots will be given the same rights as humans by 2046, including the right to vote, get married, pay taxes and perhaps serving in the military. And it’s not just researchers and robotics specialists that are considering these issues, it’s a topic that has been widely discussed by the UK Department for Trade and Industry and the UK Office of Science and Innovation (UK). The UKSI support the notion that robots may be able to receive rights within the next 20 years, especially if robots develop to the point whereby they can reproduce or improve themselves. In addition, human society will be required to provide a duty of care to their robot citizens.
We could make the comparison of the Robot Rights movement with the Animal Rights movement. Organisations such as the Nonhuman Rights Project have been campaigning for the reassessment of legal statuses of some animals, namely great apes to be treated as autonomous persons as opposed to objects. In addition, of course – humans also must adhere to animal welfare law – in the UK, cruelty to animals is a criminal offence where one may be jailed for up to 6 months.
I’ve previously discussed the outrage at the treatment of the Boston Dynamics robot Atlas, who went viral as a victim of “human bullying” after engineers were trying to demonstrate the robot’s balancing and resilience abilities. Now think back to the beginning of 2018, which saw Boston Dynamics release a video of Spot – a doglike robot – being kicked by humans to similarly demonstrate balance. Viewers felt this was akin to animal cruelty, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) released a statement that described the video of the treatment as “inappropriate”.
Where is that line between human and digital? Do these robots have “feelings” if they are programmed to simulate sentience? Are they more sentient if they look like a human or animal?
Such studies have been done on the perception of robot consciousness. MIT observed how adults react to a robot dinosaur named Pleo, which is programmed to act and speak as if it is alive – and become “anxious” and “upset” when being held upside down or hit. The study showed that the participants automatically put Pleo back the right way up as soon as it appeared to “suffer” – subconsciously treating the robot like a living thing. All participants refused to destroy the robot.
Is this human nature or nurture though? Radiolab podcast by WNYC Studios (fab podcast, give it a try!) wanted to test out this theory. They invited five children to participate in a small study to test their reactions to a Barbie, a Furby (90s animated robotic animal) and a hamster. Each child was told to hold the items upside down for as long as they could. When turned upside down, the Furby would start to cry and asked to be put back. The test showed that they saw Barbie as non-sentient and held it for over 5 mins, but they felt unable to hold the hamster OR the Furby upside down for more than 10 seconds.
So is it so wrong to start thinking about giving robots rights?
Sofia, the famous humanoid robot, was the first robot in the world to be provided with citizenship of a country. She is now a “proud” citizen of Saudi Arabia and recently declared that she wants to use her position to fight for women’s rights in the Gulf. The problem is, many argue, that Sofia the robot currently has more rights than 50% of the Saudi population. And if we start giving robots equal rights within the workplace – what about those under-valued and represented groups that currently fall behind? I’m talking gender, race, sexual orientation, class, disability (and so on) equality. How can we even start to give equal rights to robots, when humans aren’t equal themselves?