The Future Of AI Is Female
Luke Tang, General Manager of TechCode’s Global AI+ Accelerator, outlines specific skills women possess that translate into successful AI applications
Artificial intelligence started off as a sterile, robotic technology. You’ve seen the examples in popular culture of robots taking over the world or attempting to destroy mankind. But as this technology has advanced, it’s expanded into exciting new industries, ranging from cooking to health management to the environment, and has de-sterilized its traditional image of a backend technology that’s hard for the everyday consumer to comprehend. There’s a singular thread among the founders leading the charge in this evolution: they’re female.
Even though the number of women in the computing workforce is anticipated to decline, they present a definitively different viewpoint to the future of artificial intelligence development that will be prosperous in allowing this technology to make a real difference.
And in the future world of artificial intelligence, women might even be at an advantage over men by their innate social sensitivity to solve real-world, niche problems.
While artificial intelligence is often portrayed as female – Alexa, Siri, Cortana, Tay – its capabilities embody those traditionally found in solutions and products developed by male founders.
Men often look at the technology and vision its broad applications, whereas women often empathize how new technology can be used to solve a specific problem.
There have been numerous studies conducted that have found women have higher levels of empathy compared to men. Researchers have also found women’s brains also tend to have larger frontal lobes and limbic cortices, which make them more prone to noticing details and making decisions based on specifics.
In this article, I will profile some of the ways that these specific skills women possess have translated into successful and highly valuable artificial intelligence applications.
An empathetic approach to artificial intelligence
Vanessa Xi, CEO of YONO Labs, created YONO, the world’s first in-ear ovulation predictor that measures basal body temperature (BBT) to help women track their fertility. Based on her own experience measuring her BBT every morning, Vanessa quickly realized the process was complicated and frustrating.
To streamline the process, she founded YONO, which collects hundreds of data points through the hardware earpiece. It then uses a corresponding mobile app to plot a monthly fertility chart for future fertility prediction.
This application streamlines a specific health management process and was inspired by a real-world experience, tapping into Vanessa’s own knowledge of the issue to make a product that meets a critical need.
While this can be found in innovations created by men, Vanessa tapped into a definitively female problem and used her own experience to develop a solution that can help manage and even eliminate a key stressor, proving her product invaluable to the user.
As men continue to develop solutions solving issues they see relevant, we run the risk of having biased artificial intelligence platforms that ignore female problems and characteristics. Solutions like Vanessa’s play a key role in diversifying the applications of artificial intelligence.
Similarly, Erica Lee, CEO and co-founder of DeepFarm.ai, used her female-driven empathy and her millennial generation’s culture of social and environmental responsibility to build an Agricultural AI Analytics platform that uses artificial intelligence for early detection of crop issues on farms.
By analyzing farm data at three different layers—above, at and below the soil—DeepFarm helps farmers increase their crop yield and revenue using data-driven solutions by providing customized crop treatment recommendations for a variety of crop issues that are hard to see or difficult to manage.
By combining her empathy with other inherent skills that females tend to possess, like being to see various view points at once and then making important decisions quickly, Erica and her startup, DeepFarm, are building agriculture technologies to help achieve their goal of sustainable, regenerative farming methods to help combat global problems, such as world hunger and climate change.
A niche approach to artificial intelligence
Prachi Baxi is the co-founder of Smartypans, a 2017 CES Innovation Award honoree. Smartypans is a pan that computes nutrition, teaches users how to cook and even documents recipes via an accompanying mobile app.
Using temperature and weight sensors, users can follow step by step instructions that are based on real-time feedback from the two sensors. The mobile app uses voice command to help create recipes by allowing the user to simply say what ingredients are being added with the pan monitoring the weight and temperature of each ingredient.
This type of machine learning application inherently makes a part of our day-to-day activities streamlined. While the smart home has faced difficulties with adoption, these types of niche innovations may increase that adoption since these solutions solve a specific problem that consumers deeply care about.
While these problem-solving solutions are helpful, they don’t substitute inherently human qualities such as social sensitivity and empathy. These are the qualities in which many women excel at, but machines cannot replicate.
As women augment and combine their strengths with artificial intelligence, they can together build better products that satisfy deep human needs. Artificial intelligence technologies will continue to grow and surpass humans in many technical skills. Ultimately ‘human’ skills will become more appreciated and more valuable, and thus high-value jobs may be more likely to be taken by women, rather than men.
In the meantime, though, we can expect to see more artificial intelligence consumer products emerge as female founders continue to lead the charge.
Luke Tang, the general manager of TechCode’s Global AI+ Accelerator, has a PhD degree in optoelectronics from Stanford University, and holds more than ten US patents in consumer electronics.
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Walter de Brouwer is the founder and CEO of Scanadu, a NASA Ames Research-based company with the mission of putting the diagnostic power of a hospital in the hands of the consumer, modeled after the fictional tricorder once imagined in Star Trek. Walter is a Belgian-born technology entrepreneur. He started Scanadu in 2010 after a life-altering family emergency. His goal is to build a suite of smartphone-esque medical tools that reimagine access to healthcare for the people. Prior to Scanadu, de Brouwer ran One Laptop Per Child Europe and founded Starlab. His companies were involved in two IPOs and the merger of Eunet with Qwest Communications (now CenturyLink).
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