We spend a lot of time writing about artificial intelligence here at ENO8, and rightfully so. It’s the future of our industry and the differentiating factor between a *meh* app developer and a software partner of tomorrow. But one of the things we cannot forget in the pursuit of that technology-enabled idyllic future is that people still come first. Without people, the A.I. is meaningless. The companies we build and the partners we empower don’t matter if they’re not serving people, and doing so with a kindness, fairness and a generosity of spirit. Yes, businesses are designed and ought to make money; but, they should also improve the world and people’s lives in the process. Which brings us to a paragon of how not to do those things…
Harvey Weinstein is a textbook case of a powerful individual’s proclivity to prey on those seeking assistance the powerful can provide. If the (overwhelming) balance of the allegations against Weinstein are indeed true, he treated a great number of people far worse than poorly. And when you’re in the people business — which, for the most part, almost every industry is to a great degree — that inhumanity to those depending on you will always, always, always come back to haunt you (and rightfully so).
Weinstein isn’t alone — there have been a rash of allegations against high-ranking male business leaders accused of similar mistreatment of women in their employ. On the heels of Roger Ailes, Bill O’Reilly and other high-ranking men of media’s firings, it shows just how quickly the powerful are rightfully reduced to also-rans when knowledge of their transgressions becomes public (assuming for the case of this argument that the balance of the accusations are indeed true, as most accusations of sexual assault tend to objectively be).
More recently, there was an industry-wide kerfuffle about ‘Sh*tty Media Men‘: the existence of a spreadsheet outlining alleged mistreatment of women at the hands of powerful media men, the ethics involved in sharing the spreadsheet publicly, the potential pitfalls of lumping ‘creepy DMs’ in with out-and-out sexual assault… But the fair treatment of women in our workforce has risen to the fore of the issues industry must confront, and the tech industry is no more insulated from these much-needed soul searches than the media is.
The tech industry’s historical reputation isn’t exactly the most sterling when it comes to how women are recruited, employed, and treated during the employment. We have to do better as an industry (and a species, really) when it comes to treating our workforce fairly, respectfully and kindly. Which brings us back around to what this all has to do with technology.
Technology, at its heart, exists to improve humans’ lives. Our technology removes us from strenuous, dangerous jobs; it connects us to the entire world from the palm of our hands; it puts our favorite songs and the collected musical genius of our species never more than a click away; it will improve medical diagnoses and treatment outcomes; build an entire on-demand economy putting more choice in consumers’ hands than ever before — the list goes on and on. Yes, many of these ventures made their backers a ton of money, but the underlying concept improved someone’s life. That’s a noble end in-and-of itself.
Sometimes, in the hunt for the ‘next big thing,’ we lose sight of that fundamental truth: Technology is supposed to make our lives better — at least, that’s the idea. And, if we’re not making the world better for each other, we’re failing in our mission as both business leaders and as humans, too. We should recognize and reward outstanding people for the irreplaceable assets that they are. We should treat all our employees with respect, fairness and kindness, especially those who report to us.
Artificial intelligence, machine learning and the innovations that will power the future are our bread and butter. It’s what we focus on, it’s what we care about, it’s what we do. But, at our core, we’re people persons. We value and empower our employees and we value and empower our clients and partners. We always seek to keep in mind the fundamental truth that what we do is to aid humanity as best we can. Yes we want to change the world with technology, but we want to do it the right way. And as the news seemingly goes from bad to worse, it’s important that we take heed of these terrible tragedies so we as a society and an industry can learn from them and build a better world going forward for having acted on that knowledge.
In closing, please just remember to be a decent human while you’re changing the world. It really will make everything better for everyone…