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Talking Tech - the art and science of communicating complex ideas (Bristech2018)

A talk I gave at Bristech2018 technology conference about the importance - and challenges - of communicating about technology.

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Talking Tech - the art and science of communicating complex ideas (Bristech2018)

  2. 2. Bowles, Cennydd - Future Ethics Over the coming decades, our industry will ask people to trust us with their data, their vehicles, and even their families’ safety.
  3. 3. ‘None the wiser perhaps my lord, but certainly better informed.’ ‘I've listened to you for an hour and I'm none the wiser.’
  4. 4. The post-truth world Michael Gove, 6 June 2016 ‘I think that the people of this country have had enough of experts’
  5. 5. What Michael Gove actually said ‘I think that the people of this country have had enough of experts from organisations with acronyms saying that they know what is best and getting it consistently wrong’
  6. 6. FAKE NEWS!
  7. 7. Dan McQuillan People’s Councils for Ethical Machine Learning Social Media + Society April-June 2018: 1–10 If we cannot understand exactly what is being weighed in the balance, it is very hard to tell under what circumstances harm may be caused or in what ways the operations might be unethical
  8. 8. “There is a general uneasiness around the potential of AI to disrupt existing jobs. This is compounded by a lack of communication between employers and employees when it comes to keeping staff updated with the introduction of new technology.” Investors in People, ‘Artificial Intelligence at Work: Perception & Attitudes’, 2018
  9. 9. Emily Steiner on Twitter “Their lives are short & their bodies transitory; the days pass quickly, centuries roll by, & death comes before you know it.” “We have described everything briefly, because people prefer simple things that don't take long to explain.”
  10. 10. “if you ever write an article that has robots or artificial intelligence in the headline, you are guaranteed that it will have twice as many people click on it” House of Lords Select Committee on Artificial Intelligence April 2017
  12. 12. Books
  13. 13. Marketing yourself “Expertise and training in the fields of Catalysis, Design of Experiments (DoE) and Principal Component Analysis (PCA). An experienced scientist with additional expertise in automation, multivariate data analysis, process development and problem solving.”
  14. 14. ….organizations and institutions that produce these breakthroughs seem to be more innovative and flexible than those responsible for anticipating and coping with their effects… This situation has generated serious challenges for society in the past, and the future holds promise of even more serious challenges. Trust and Regulation GENERIC LESSONS LEARNED ABOUT SOCIETAL RESPONSES TO EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES PERCEIVED AS INVOLVING RISKS Stern et al, 2009
  15. 15. Trust and Regulation
  17. 17.
  18. 18. Don’t talk about the science The first rule of climate science? Don’t talk about the science
  19. 19. Language matters The war on climate change The race against climate change Flusberg, S.J., Matlock, T. and Thibodeau, P.H., 2018. War metaphors in public discourse. Metaphor and Symbol, 33(1), pp.1-18.
  20. 20. Be clear and honest about risks…. A common misunderstanding is that a 100-year flood is likely to occur only once in a 100-year period. In fact, there is approximately a 63.4% chance of one or more 100-year floods occurring in any 100-year period. On the Danube River at Passau, Germany, the actual intervals between 100-year floods during 1501 to 2013 ranged from 37 to 192 years.
  21. 21. …but focus also on the consequences “While scientists tend to focus on the probability a risk will be realized, the public tends to focus on the consequences.” “Public judgments of the seriousness of hazards are related to the extent to which a possible consequence is dreaded, especially if the consequence is potentially unbounded in its effects.” GENERIC LESSONS LEARNED ABOUT SOCIETAL RESPONSES TO EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES PERCEIVED AS INVOLVING RISKS Stern et al, 2009
  22. 22. Don’t be afraid to complicate the narrative When people encounter complexity, they become more curious and less closed off to new information. They listen, in other words. Amanda Ripley Complicating the narratives Medium, June 2018
  23. 23. “Anecdotes may not be data, but anecdotes are the stories we tell in order to make the data mean something to people.” Andrew Thaler When I talk about climate change Southern Fried Science Jan 2017
  24. 24. Tell stories
  25. 25. “For sale: baby shoes, never worn”
  26. 26. Why are we so worried about AI? Surely humans are always able to pull the plug? People asked a computer, “Is there a God?” And the computer said, “There is now,” and a bolt of lightning fused the plug. Stephen Hawking quoted in The Times, 14 October 2018
  27. 27. Discuss the past…..
  28. 28. …but also the future
  29. 29. If you’re informing an engaged audience, talk about the tech If you’re selling, talk about the benefits If you’re persuading, talk about values and identity
  30. 30. Help people build a reliable conceptual model Be transparent about risks Use complexity to encourage curiosity Use the right language – or change it Tell a good story Build a compelling vision of the future
  31. 31. THANK YOU @CeciliaUnltd