Last week was London Tech Week and I kicked things off at the CognitionX conference and exhibition that took place at Tobacco Dock.

I’ll be honest, I can’t give you the low-down from a techie perspective but I can tell you all about the best bits and what a non-techie, like me, took away. If you’d rather watch it, I also vlogged the day and you can check that out on YouTube.

Things were already a buzz when I arrived and after meeting-up with Abi, who kindly invited me along, we headed to the ground floor, where we saw exhibits such as Microsoft’s Juice Bar, where visitors got one of three free juices recommended to them by a facial recognition AI computer that scanned faces. Other exhibits on the ground floor included BMI’s VR racing game and Sophia the humanoid robot created by Hanson Robotics.

However a far more impressive humanoid robot – Robothespian – greeted and conversed with visitors on the 1st floor. 4 out of the 5 stages were also on this floor, where everything from lightning talks to workshops took place. The sessions that caught our attention were the lightning talks on the Blockchain stage where we were given an overview of the latest applications of blockchain such as optimising search engine results and UX, an app that lets users (such as the artist, Shepard Fairey) authenticate art and build smart contracts.  

The showstopper for me was on the ethics stage, where we caught a panel of super women speaking on “Why Women in AI – the Need for Diversity in the Data and Training of AI”. The panel included; Sofia Oldege, Professor of Statistics at UCL; Josie Young, Feminist AI researcher, Transformation Manager at Methods & Co-Chair of YWCA; Hanna Naima McCloskey, Founder & CEO of Fearless Futures; and Carol Reiley, Board Member at Drive.AI; was hosted by TV Presenter & Author of ‘Diversity’, June Sarpong and was a truly inspiring sight to see so many powerful, accomplished women sat on one stage addressing the need for diversity.

 

I’m sure I wasn’t the only person to consider taking up a career in tech after watching them on stage but it also shed some light on hiring practices and what measures must sometimes be taken to ensure there is equal opportunity in a workplace.

To a question about why only ¼ of the tech world is made up of women, it was suggested that a number of factors might be contributing such a leaky pipeline of women working their way up the ranks and a lack of female mentors and sponsors. To which Sofia Young responded, “We cannot wait for things to just magically change we have to actually take the step to make change happen”

We also heard “Transformation mindset is key and that starts with us – hopefully in an inter sectional feminist way” from Josie Young and “In the whirlwind world of tech things are constantly being innovated and once something is made it’s all about optimising. We have to decide what we’re prioritising when we are optimising” from Hanna McCloskey.  

Definitely woke me up to how quickly tech is transforming our world and why it’s important to stay aware and involved.