Anthropology + Technology Conference, Bristol 2019

We are excited to announce a conference that will bring together anthropologists and technologists in Bristol on 3-4 October 2019. Will you join us?

Why this conference and why now?

Over the last few years, both academics and the media have documented some of the negative effects of automated decision-making (AI) in areas such as policing, finance, credit reporting, and administration of public programmes.

Today, these issues are still prevalent. As AI becomes more widely adopted, people are realising the importance of assessing the impact of emerging technologies on society as a whole.

While AI can provide unparalleled opportunities, it can, without the correct processes, also have a detrimental impact on people’s futures.

Why anthropologists are uniquely placed to help

More and more people and institutions are calling for ethical standards, for a Hippocratic oath for the data scientists, systems engineers, and computer scientists. Some are pointing to bioethics as a model.

However, what seems to be missing is a call for social scientists.

Anthropologists, with their understanding about human practices and human experience, are uniquely placed to help. Anthropologists are already working in companies such as Intel, Google, Microsoft, Nissan, and Volvo. 

Anthropologists can help technologists understand how their technology can align and integrate with human workers — what aspects can be automated and what needs to be done by humans  how humans and machines can work together to avoid the future we seem to be heading towards. Machines are exceptional at churning through gigantean amounts of data at speed but less good at making nuanced judgements based on wisdom and knowledge.

Anthropologists can also help companies understand the socio-cultural context in which their technologies are being designed and, by doing so, help them successfully design products for the many, not just the few.

How can emerging technologies be designed for human futures?

The technology companies who ask questions such as ‘how can emerging technologies be designed for human futures’ and ‘what should those human futures look like’ will, I suspect, see their hoped-for benefits to society come to fruition.

About the conference

The conference aims to bring together anthropologists and technologists who are working on emerging technology projects, with the specific objective of showing why anthropologists are needed and how they can add value, and creating a space where people can collaborate across the disciplines.

Our intention is also to 'buddy up' anthropologists with technologists at the conference to get each talking to the other and create some real connections and dialogue. There will be a dedicated networking space, together with a 'needs' board, and an app to facilitate networking.

An interim conference website is now up at www.anthtechconf.co.uk where you can sign up for updates and be the first to know when tickets are released. A branded website will up in March 2019 with further information about the speakers, programme of events, sponsors, and venue. If you have any questions, please email us at conf@mundyandanson.co.uk.

The conference organisers are Mundy and Anson Ltd.

And why Bristol? Because it's one of the UK’s top technology and innovation hubs, and because I live and work here.

Keynote speakers: anthropologists + technologists

Our invitation to speak has been accepted by these highly-respected academics/practitioners:

  • Professor Joanna Bryson, a Reader (tenured Associate Professor) in the Department of Computer Science at the University of Bath. She works on Artificial Intelligence, ethics, and collaborative cognition, and believes social scientists are missing from the equation: "The impact on our society is so spectacular that our institutions are struggling to keep pace, including the social sciences that might help us understand the promises and risks of our new situation".
  • Dr Julien CornebiseElement AI. Julien is the Director of Research and Head of Element AI’s London Office, with a focus on AI for Good. Julien describes himself as a “passionate, impact-driven scientist in Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence”. Julien worked at DeepMind (later acquired by Google) as an early employee.
  • Anna Kirah, an applied anthropologist who counts Microsoft among her clients. Anna is an internationally-respected design anthropologist and psychologist known for pioneering the people-centric approach to innovation and change management. She has her own consultancy, teaches at the Oslo Metropolitan University and is the Managing Director of Design without Borders.
  • Professor Sarah Pink, Monash University. Sarah is a world-leading design anthropologist and Director of the Emerging Technologies Research Lab which undertakes critical interdisciplinary and international research into the social, cultural and experiential dimensions of the design, use and futures of new and emerging technologies. Her research focuses on emerging intelligent technologies, automation, data, digital futures, safety and design for wellbeing. Current projects investigate autonomous driving vehicles, Mobility as a Service, digital energy futures, self tracking and wearable technologies, smart phone and personal technology futures, digital technology use in everyday life, and health care design. 
  • Dr Simon Roberts, an internationally-respected applied anthropologist based in London, who has worked for Intel. Simon is a founding partner at Stripe Partners, and has devoted his career to bringing deep human insight to solve business challenges and inspire innovation, with a particular focus on technology.

Case studies and success stories from the 'field'

And because we want this conference to showcase the value of anthropologists on emerging technology projects and for there to be actionable take-aways (less talk, more action!), we invite you to get in touch to share your case studies and success stories with us at the conference:

  • Anthropologists who have worked/are working on emerging technology projects.
  • Technologists (computer scientists, data scientists) who understand the significant value of having anthropologists on their teams.

For students, by students, hosted by Bristol University

In collaboration with Bristol University, a second day (Friday 4 October) is also being organised by students for students with the aim of fostering cross-disciplinary understandings between anthropology and computer science (AI, machine learning, and data science) students. Students will have the opportunity to:

  • talk informally (Q&A) with leading practitioners and business leaders in their field
  • showcase relevant research (PechaKucha style)
  • participate in a series of workshops and seminars relevant to the conference topic and their respective disciplines.

Call for sponsors

If you'd like to join this exciting conference and get your brand in front of 300+ technologists and anthropologists, we'd love to hear from you.

Together we can build a future in which socially-responsible AI is the norm. Join us.

Image credits: 'Big data is watching you' photo by ev on Unsplash; Woman photographing city by Semina Psichogiopoulou on Unsplash.