Star Trek Voyager: A Model for a More Inclusive Community


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The greatest asset of open source software is the ability to fork and improve. When it comes to our community’s culture, could we be better?

I know we can, and Star Trek: Voyager gives us our blueprint.

This talk explores the principles surrounding Gene Rodenberry’s creation and how we can craft a culture of inclusiveness and diversity to achieve even more.

We'll use scientific studies, research, and mathematical models to prove the idea of diverse collective intelligence over individual intelligence within a group.

We’ll explore the ground-breaking symbolism of characters like Captain Janeway, Lieutenant Tuvok and Seven of Nine.

Learning Objectives & Outcomes:
We’ll also get into reasons why the show was successful and how we can adapt those principles to our own work and open source communities.
What is the significance of casting the first female captain?
How did their collective intelligence as a diverse group supersede their individual intelligence?
How were they perceived within their communities given their backgrounds and interests?
Did their unique points of view add value to the overall narrative?
What can we learn about assessing value, both short-term and long-term?
Why was diversity important to their ultimate goal of finding home?

Published in: Self Improvement
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Star Trek Voyager: A Model for a More Inclusive Community

  1. 1. Star Trek: Voyager A Model for a More Inclusive Community 2014 Fox Valley Drupal Camp September 20, 2014 @fredricmitchell
  2. 2. Fredric @fredricmitchell • Unabashedly an engineer • Efficiency over everything • Senior Dev @Phase2 • Continuously striving to do better
  3. 3. What @fredricmitchell
  4. 4. What We’re Talking About • Journey to a better experience (User and Developer) • The allegory of Star Trek: Voyager and it’s characters • Context and Blind Spots • The Diversity Trumps Ability Theorem @fredricmitchell
  5. 5. Talent hits a target that no one else can hit; genius hits a target no one else can see. “ ” Arthur Schopenhauer German Philosopher @fredricmitchell
  6. 6. Superheroes love the journey @fredricmitchell
  7. 7. Software is Hard @fredricmitchell
  8. 8. Star Trek: Voyager @fredricmitchell Photo Credit:
  9. 9. [A great show] has to teach you how to “ watch it. ” Alan Sepinwall TV Critic @fredricmitchell
  10. 10. Captain Janeway @fredricmitchell • First female captain • Bullheaded, simultaneously dogmatic and impulsive • Melded together a dynamic crew, including Maquis rebels Photo Credit:
  11. 11. The Janeway @fredricmitchell “Keep your shirt tucked in; go down with the ship; and never abandon a member of your crew.”
  12. 12. Am I open to unorthodoxy? @fredricmitchell
  13. 13. Tuvok @fredricmitchell • Black Vulcan • Calm, logical, and expert botanist • Keeps the peace through his wisdom, experience, and vitality Photo Credit:
  14. 14. It’s not easy “On the contrary, the demands on a Vulcan's character are extraordinarily difficult. Do not mistake composure for ease.”
  15. 15. Is logic guiding my decisions? @fredricmitchell
  16. 16. B’Elanna Torres @fredricmitchell • Half Hispanic Human and Klingon • Chief Engineer • Tough, knowledgeable and independent • Brash, bold, and extremely complex Photo Credit:
  17. 17. @fredricmitchell Hidden Potential “If I sprain my ankle, at least I feel something […] I'm not trying to kill myself! I'm trying to see if I'm still alive.”
  18. 18. How am I evaluating talent? @fredricmitchell
  19. 19. Seven-of-Nine @fredricmitchell • Former assimilated Borg • Forced to adapt after separating from the collective • Logical, pensive, and extremely blunt • Lightning rod Photo Credit:
  20. 20. Signal to Noise “But that is irrelevant.” @fredricmitchell
  21. 21. @fredricmitchell What are the facts?
  22. 22. Math. Science. @fredricmitchell
  23. 23. @fredricmitchell Emotional Intelligence of Groups • Source (HBR): • Teams who develop greater emotional intelligence (EQ) boost their overall performance • EQ: Trust among members, a sense of group identity, and a sense of group efficacy • At the heart of these three conditions are emotions, like the ability to listen
  24. 24. Women are Key to Smart Teams @fredricmitchell • Published in HBR 2011: • Little correlation between a group’s collective intelligence and the IQs of its individual members • If a group includes more women, its collective intelligence rises.
  25. 25. What do you hear about great groups? Not that the members are all really smart, but that they listen to each other. “ ” Anita Wooley Assistant Professor at Carnegie Mellon @fredricmitchell
  26. 26. Points of Clarification • Emotional Intelligence != Being Emotional • Men can have high EQ • Correlation and Probability are implied • Gender is not limited to two choices @fredricmitchell
  27. 27. The Difference @fredricmitchell • Scott Page • Professor of Complex Systems, Political Science, and Economics • Published 2007 •
  28. 28. Perspective, Heuristics • Perspective • How one looks at a problem • Heuristic • Tells a person where to search for a solution @fredricmitchell
  29. 29. Diversity Trumps Ability Conditions 1. The problem must be hard 2. Each solver has a local optima to the problem 3. An improvement can be made to a non-optimal solution 4. Large pool of solvers to form a decent-size collection Proof The context of perspective and heuristics are key @fredricmitchell
  30. 30. Problem solvers with diverse perspectives may have trouble “ understanding solutions identified by ” other agents. Scott Page Professor at Univ. of Michigan @fredricmitchell
  31. 31. And thus, EQ comes full circle @fredricmitchell
  32. 32. Star Trek: Voyager @fredricmitchell Photo Credit:
  33. 33. @fredricmitchell So, what can I do?
  34. 34. Get off the ‘its a pipeline problem’ @fredricmitchell
  35. 35. Who is the the ‘most qualified’ candidate? @fredricmitchell
  36. 36. Keys to Live By • Be an ally • Recognize my privilege • Remember the science!! • Stay bold in the compound interest of action • Strive for maximum group collective intelligence @fredricmitchell
  37. 37. @fredricmitchell How great can our community be?
  38. 38. How will I help get us ‘home’? @fredricmitchell
  39. 39. Sources Diversity Articles Groups are smarter with women - EQ (HBR link) - Group Intelligence Correlates More with Social Aptitude than IQ - Being an Ally as a Person with Privilege - Risk of Speaking Up - 21st Century Talent Spotting: Potential Trumps Brains, experience, and competencies - Mathematical Model of Diversity - Scott Page: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Schools, Societies - thedifference_content.html Diversity Trumps Ability - Scott Page Research - Voyager Articles @fredricmitchell
  40. 40. @fredricmitchell Thanks for Listening ! 2014 Fox Valley Drupal Camp September 20, 2014