Is Tech Getting Closer to Bridging Cultural Differences?

By Gabriela Sosa, Social Media Coordinator

My interest in the ways in which people use digital and social media to connect and learn is well-documented at this point. Digital and social continue to play huge roles in our everyday lives, but both are rapidly needing to make space for AI (or AI is taking that space without asking). More than just buzz, Artificial Intelligence is everywhere. There are also no shortages of think pieces on what AI means for (or about) the human condition and experiences, but graduating to a world where we interact even more closely with technology has consequences. What does it mean for a world that is still trying to understand cross-cultural differences?

 

Google’s Pixel Buds: Translating Headphones

Imagine a world where you can talk to your grandmother who doesn’t speak English, and you never learned the language she speaks. Could translating earphones capture the nuances, the reality of the conversation, and all that’s been communicated through broken phrases over the years? With Google’s announcement of headphones capable of translating conversations in realtime, it is more than just a possibility.

Technology can feel so cold sometimes. In these moments of straightforwardness I look for art: In an efficiently translated conversation, there are generations and the potential to connect the gaps for traditions and language lost. And while technological advances may strike fear in the hearts of people (myself included), I look for the ways in which diverse voices at the table are working to make sure technological advancements bring everyone along.

 

Cultural Consequences of AI & Tech

The implications and consequences of something novel almost seem to be somewhere in the blueprint. On the inception of Twitter, Mike Monteiro writes: “Ten years ago, a group of white dudes baked the DNA of the platform without thought to harassment or abuse. They built the platform with the best of intentions. I still believe this. But they were ignorant to their own blind spots. As we all are. This is the value of diverse teams by the way. When you’re building a tool with a global reach (and who isn’t these days) your team needs to look like the world it’s trying to reach. And ten years later, the abuse has proven too much to fix.” Monteiro goes on to link this fateful moment to the ways in which Twitter continues to fail many users, namely women of color, when it comes to online abuse and harassment (and ultimately how the platform has been able to adapt to the needs of other users).

The cultural consequences of technology, by that logic then, can be inferred by the way they were created. In a recent Provoke Weekly by my colleague Maria, she writes “When we include diverse perspectives and experiences into how we develop new programs or apps, we can create technology that suits and benefits everyone.”

 

The Cultural Push and Pull On/From Technology

In an article about famed roboticist Hiroshi Ishiguro, AI expert David Levy states “A few decades from now…the differences between human and android may be no greater than the cultural differences between peoples from different countries or even from different parts of the same country.” In the hours since I first read that, I have fixated and mulled it over: What does it mean about the way we handle cross cultural differences, what does it mean about how AI will evolve and how we interact with it?

Director of Digital Initiatives, Matias Jaramillo interacting with one of Hiroshi Ishiguro’s robots at SXSW 2017

As an agency dedicated to understanding and bridging people and brands to cultures, for us it is of utmost importance to understand how those identities, labels and subcultures are evolving now and thinking about how they will look in the future. What do you think: Can tech help bridge these gaps or will it create new ones?

Dieste, Inc. (www.dieste.com) is a Dallas- and New York-based company with a mission to pioneer the future of how brands and cultures connect. Through our partnerships and the deployment of proprietary consumer data, algorithms and human cultural intel, combined with insightful creativity, we are able to sync brands with consumer subcultures and create successful outcomes for our clients. Dieste has won multiple Cannes Lions for their work and has been named numerous times to Ad Age’s “A-list,” “Agency to Watch” and “Multicultural Agency of the Year.”  Dieste is part of Omnicom’s (NYSE: OMC) DAS Global network.

Dieste Inc
gsosa@dieste.com