Cristina Aranda and why technology needs humanities profiles
I begin this article with one of my mantras, a verse from the great Antonio Machado in his wonderful Proverbs and sing: “Today is always still, all life is now. And now, now is the time to fulfill the promises we made to each other. Because we didn’t do it yesterday, because tomorrow is too late. Now”.
And I present my mantra to talk about technology. Rather, of the need to have the talent of so many people who today do not know that they can work in this exciting sector, which demands a large number of professionals who today are not trained or have experience for certain projects.
I introduce myself. I am Cristina Aranda, graduate in Hispanic philology, doctor in theoretical linguistics and its applications, master in Internet Business and social innovation fellow of the US Embassy in Spain and the Meridian International Center.
What does a philologist do working in technology?
when they ask me What does a philologist do working in technology or artificial intelligence?I smile and answer that what we continually do on the Internet is search for information writing words and there is nothing more philological than the word.
Google It is a lexical-semantic souk where brands bid to occupy search places. The recommenders They guide us where to eat, stay… they operate with words. In ours social networks we use hashtags to describe a reality.
We are “poets of the jassscagss” as the great character of Noemí Argüelles would say Paquitas Salas. And we could continue with the WhatsApp voice audios, the conversations with the virtual assistant on duty, the analysis of the news to detect fake news (especially now in times of pandemic and war) and a large number of products or solutions whose main basis is language, conversation, two-way human-machine interaction.
In our case, in Spanish or Castilian (as you prefer)it is an incredible economic development opportunity because, according to the Cervantes Institute, it is spoken by 580 million speakers, 7.6% of the world’s population, and it continues to grow…
Train the machine
To train the machine to use our language, interpret it and generate it, Linguists and philologists are needed, as well as engineers specializing in natural language processing. This is one of the reasons why artificial intelligence (AI) fascinates me, because without simple intelligence (Gloria Fuertes dixit in his poem I do not have memory) of people with different backgrounds, precise training could not be carried out, where the machine achieves a high accuracy rate (take note of this word if you are going to be an AI colleague, “accuracy“).
Now, we also need profiles that know psychology, anthropology, ethics… and more areas of humanities because, ironic as it may seem, in the current industrial revolution in which we live, where digitalization, data management, AI and in consequence, automation requires of people who know what is essentially human, the fiercely human. Because, for now, machines are only at the level of learning a specific task, but not quickly associating concepts or ideas, understanding semantic dislocations (irony, metaphor, jokes…) or, if we go to the emotional level, knowing how to quickly adapt to convince, persuade, seduce or motivate.
In addition to this, in this conversation you interact with objects, whose design can impact positively or negatively. Think about how many times you have faced an application or website where it is an odyssey to carry out any task correctly. because the process is so complex that in no way escape room I would use it well because the user experience, ‘how I use that digital tool’, is not friendly and, even worse, accessible to all people (non-natives of the language, older people, people with disabilities…).
Hence, here we find another profile that conceives that the world would be a better place thanks to design, the art of projecting the appearance, function and production of a functional object through graphic signs.
“Automation requires people who know what is essentially human”
I could be listing profiles like mine that in our academic training We did not have subjects related to technology, and today many companies require our knowledge because they have realized, ironies of life, that users are people with the complexity and simplicity that this entails.
Or, better yet, found our own company, as is my case with Big Oniona team of solvers made up of a telecommunications engineer, a physicist and me, where we create collaboratively, admire and learn from each other every day and in each project, providing more creative solutions given the richness of perspectives and our work experiences. We have diversity, not only of different identity, gender, culture, age or sexual orientation; but we also have cognitive diversity: training, work experience, different approach to problem solving…
This sector, like everyone, needs all the people who workthose of us who have power over decisions in companies or institutions and, even more so, over the people who make up our teams, are aware that diversity is not “fashionable”as justice, human rights or sustainable development goals are not; but it is one of the best innovation levers that exist.
Grace Hooper, creator of the COBOL language (among many other creations in the software industry) said that there is no more harmful phrase in our language than “it’s always been done this way here.”
Diversity and innovation
We must help anyone access this exciting sector. Yes, first hacking existing stereotypes and, second, so you can get a salary that is seen in few environments: he emotional salary, which is much more powerful than anyone believes.
Enough with encourage public recognition inside and outside the company (we continue to see everything experts in events, reports…), promoting equal opportunities in positions of power (quotas, yes, I have written quotas – I recommend that you write “Simpson’s paradox” in the search engine), flexible hours, work per goals or projects… And so many things that are not promoted with just a photo on Women’s Day or a table of Woman in Whatever because, simply, no one believes it anymore. “This is not a time for complacency.”because we didn’t do it yesterday, because tomorrow is too late. Now”.
It’s time to real change and is committed to something that not only makes companies or organizations more efficient and, therefore, more productive, but also makes those who are part of them feel something as powerful as belonging to a fiercely human collective. And that feeling is not generated by data or any AI.
I now give my witness to Clara Harp, person whom I admire for many reasons, personally and professionally focused on creativity, sense of humor and pragmatism. She is the great creator of a great phrase that I now often use to hack stereotypes about training and worth: “I’m not an engineer but I am ingenious.”In these times, I will love to read and learn once again from Clara, the President of the Spanish Network of the UN Global Compact and CEO of ARPA Mobile Campaign Equipment, one of the world’s leading companies in mobile defense equipment, all types of civil organizations in peace, development and international cooperation missions, NGOs, health, emergencies and communications.
*Cristina Aranda Gutiérrez is co-founder of Big Onion and cofounder of MujeresTech, Spain AI and Ellis Alicante.
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