My business partner and I went to Redwood City last Tuesday and Wednesday to attend Startup Grind, which is a techbro fest from hell, where everybody who’s kinda made it in Silicon Valley is on stage (those who’ve actually made it can’t be fucked coming to this dinky little conference), and those who wanna make it are in the audience.
We went because I have this dream of doing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work for the techies in the Valley. Most of them don’t understand why this matters, but a few do and I think they genuinely want to get help in addressing these issues in their companies. And I am so happy to have them be my clients, I think that would be some massive impact for this justice fighter.
Anyway, this is my second Startup Grind, the first one was 2 years ago, when I first moved back to the US from Australia, and I went cause I wanted to learn about what was supposed to be the latest in tech. I’m obsessed with tech as I love and hate it in equal measures. Actually, not true, I love it more, but it still freaks me out a bit.
Case in point: Laura and I visited the booth for a company called HRMNY, just like that, harmony with no vowels, no human voice required. They pitched themselves as a human resources company, and what they do is “AI supported cognitive id”. What is cognitive id, you ask? Check this.
So. The kids from Latvia (cause they’re pretty freakin’ young, and yes, came all the way from Latvia) developed a piece of AI that can identify your cognitive behavioral patterns in under 3 minutes, asking you only 3 questions. The questions were something along the lines of: do you prefer sunny, cloudy or snowy weather? What have you liked about this conference so far? If you could have a miracle tomorrow, what would it be? And then you answer them talking into a laptop that is recording video of you, and spits out in no time your “Cognitive id”. They give you 3 main characteristics, and I can’t remember what were the attributes or headers for these characteristics, but we saw people get descriptors such as “Execution, Implementation, Performance.” So basically words that capture aspects of your cognition. Laura and I work together at WiseBridge, so it’s no surprise that we were similarly inclined. She got “Relationships, Communication, Maturity”.
My cognitive ID results were “Creativity, Communication, Vision”. Which is TERRIFYINGLY spot on. For anyone that knows me, this goes without saying. I mean, especially when compared to attributes like “implementation” or “performance”. It’s not that I don’t value those things, and I think I’m decent at them, but my cognitive id was uncannily precise in identifying what I’m actually all about, and great at. What was freaky is that I don’t think that what you answered had any impact on your cognitive id, at least not as much as how you answered it. Which is just weird, you have to admit.
What freaked me out the most is not that the algorithm knows me, it’s that it knows me better than I know myself. For the past 4 years I have been deep in a personal development and soul searching process, redefining my career, thinking about how I want to spend my days and how to best be of service to the world. And have fun. And make a living. And work with cool people. And have space for all my interests. And I have landed in a very comfortable space of self knowledge that I think could be very much summarized by Creativity, Communication, Vision.
It took the AI thingamajig less than 3 minutes. It’s taken me a lifetime to unlearn myself and refind me anew. The AI thingamajig didn’t tell me anything I didn’t know. But it did freak me the fuck out how accurate and fast it was.
I spoke with the CEO of the company, and asked him if they already had an ethicist or a Chief Ethical Officer or some such. He looked at me weird. He did admit that Cambridge Analytica having this probably wouldn’t be a good thing. I’m like, what makes you think they don’t already. Just terrifying. I walked away from HRMNY’s booth equal parts fascinated and scared. And I did give that CEO The Look™ and very clearly told him I’d be in touch and I’d be watching him. I’m no one and me watching them means nothing, but I know that at the end of the day he’s human and as his own technology told us, my jams are creativity, communication, and vision, and I’m pretty sure after my telling to, he at least started to think about the monster he has created.
See you all uploaded to the Matrix!