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By Marina Ruggieri, IEEE fellow and professor of telecommunications at University of Roma “Tor Vergata”

If I were a painter, I would consider a canvas as a neutral means to transfer my ideas and emotions into a painting.

When we discuss the neutrality of technology, we are referring to the idea that the technology is the canvas, and technologists and scientists are the painters. We have the role, competence, and responsibility to make the canvas become artwork.

A blank canvas

The beauty of technology is its intrinsic neutrality. Technology has a huge potential to either benefit or damage the environment, and the teams working on said technology have the opportunity to shape it to fully benefit them. This is indeed a fascinating opportunity, which is open to all in a broad breath of diversity and inclusiveness. The more diverse and inclusive the technology team is, the more diverse and inclusive the application developers are, and the more beneficial the result will be. New technologies which are fair and unbiased are really the best ally when it comes to designing an attractive and lasting future for humans and the planet.

The power of AI

One example of neutral technology can be seen with artificial intelligence (AI). This particular technology often generates mixed feelings, and many individuals have a strong lack of trust with it. What worries a lot of people, is perhaps potentially an uncontrolled evolution of the algorithms which can cause damage to humans. For example, the troubles caused to the protagonist of the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey” by a super intelligent calculator are hard to forget, for people of all generations.

AI algorithms need to be trusted in the most objective way – and what is more objective than a truly diverse and inclusive team of developers? Diversity and inclusiveness could be a strong guideline for the algorithm evaluation from the performance and ethical viewpoints. AI is going to be increasingly pervasive and, if properly developed and tested, is destined to become an extremely beneficial pillar for the sustainability of the planet. AI is just one of the many examples of technology frameworks where diversity and inclusiveness can improve the results, create a powerful osmosis between the means and goals and create a natural outcome.

Collaboration is key

A deep trust in technology and its neutrality is very important to appreciate the role AI can play to create an even environment. For example, when daily activities in either professional or social domains are widely supported by the neutrality of a key-technology such as AI, diversity and inclusion can be more easily guaranteed. Neutral technology is the “guardian” of even opportunities which can contribute to various domains in the most diverse way. Only an unbalanced trust in technology could result in a lack of diversity and inclusion.

As humans, we are intrinsically non-linear, and our unconscious bias is aligned with natural behaviour. The rational approach of AI-based algorithms is an effective means to balance the human non-linear trait in various application domains, like recruiting procedures. The best outcome is teamwork between humans and AI, as this provides a contribution of rational and non-linear behaviour. In fact, the rational and data-driven approach identifies the short list of solutions to a given task or issue while the non-linear contribution helps identify the spike often associated with an ingenious solution.

Any technology which is prone to exchange knowledge from data and to allow the proper use of knowledge is an ally to diversity and inclusion. Going forward, we can expect technologies that have broad coverage and highly reliable speed and latency to be utilised within the super-connected infrastructure.

About the author

Marina Ruggieri is an IEEE fellow and Full Professor of Telecommunications Engineering at the University of Roma “Tor Vergata”. She is co-founder and Chair of the Steering Board of the interdisciplinary Center for Teleinfrastructures (CTIF) at the University of Roma “Tor Vergata”. The Center focuses on the use of the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) for vertical applications (health, energy, cultural heritage, economics, law) by integrating terrestrial, air and space communications, computing, positioning and sensing.