From Alan Turing, Sophie Wilson, Lynn Conway to Tim Cook – LGBTQ+ people paved the way for technological advancements of today. To mark the last day of Pride Month and the last issue of #TechAways before the holiday break, let’s take a closer look at how tech has influenced the community.
Starting with the positives: technology has done wonders for community building, queer representation and raising awareness around LGBTQ+ issues. With high suicide rates and poor mental health amongst queer youth, social media has provided structure and decreased the feelings of isolation. LGBTQ+ oriented dating apps connect people without the threat of external violence, while virtual spaces like Metaverse give gender non-conforming individuals a chance to explore their identity in safe, controlled circumstances.
This tech optimism can quickly turn sour, though. Strict community guidelines and automated enforcement of these can result in LGBTQ+ voices being silenced on social media and other large platforms. Algorithmic bias is a further concern – for instance, AI used during recruitment processes could discriminate against queer applicants. Equally, facial recognition and surveillance tools are already playing a big role in targeting LGBTQ+ individuals, with examples from Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Tunisia showing that technology can be deployed in policing and, effectively, translate into state-sponsored oppression. The same goes for the enforcement of anti-trans laws across the US.
Looking into the future, increased queer representation in tech might be the way to address some of those challenges. Ultimately, technology more attuned to the diversity of the human condition makes it more nuanced and accurate, with everyone benefiting from a more inclusive digital sphere.
Before you run off into the sunset (and bask in the glory of well-deserved summer holidays), check out some tech news that we’ve put together for you! See you in September!
Virtual green therapy 🌲 [MIT Technology Review]
If you’re tired of your usual therapy sessions, you can try the forest alternative. Renowned for its mental health benefits, this concept has recently encountered accessibility challenges in urban areas. However, virtual reality offers a potential solution. In a study by the Czech University of Life Sciences, participants did 30-minute forest bathing sessions at a nature reserve and then experienced a virtual replica of the forest created with laser scanners and audio recordings. Surprisingly, changes in the emotional state of participants were similar for both physical and virtual experiences. Forest researcher Martin Hůla noted the immersive nature of the experience can make one forget they are in an experimental room. Despite challenges like processing power limitations and cyber-sickness, experts remain hopeful for future advancements. Prepare for unlimited “tree”tment sessions!
US lawyers learn to do their homework the hard way 👩⚖️ [ArsTechnica]
Do your homework, or risk paying $5,000! This was the lesson for two US lawyers, who decided to ask ChatGPT to do their job. The rather mundane case – the claimant was seeking damages for injuries suffered during a flight from El Salvador to New York in August 2019, when a metal snack and drink cart struck their knee – turned dramatic when it came to light that lawyers working on the case cited fake cases (generated by AI) to support their statements. The fine is not the biggest price they’ll pay, as the judges required them to send letters to six real judges who were falsely identified as the authors of the fake opinions cited in their legal filings. Ouch.
Memory matters: energy efficiency revolution in tech! 💾 [The Next Web]
Computer memory technologies are one of the biggest energy efficiency issues in the tech world, according to a research team led by the University of Cambridge. AI, algorithms and internet usage are energy-hungry, eating up approximately 30% of global electricity consumption within the next decade. Conventional computers spend a lot of energy processing data – receiving and processing data is done separately in computing, with data switching from one to the other. A “resistive switching memory” technology seems to be the solution: a memory that can process and receive data at the same time. Bottom line: this could lead to more sustainable use of technologies. Cambridge Enterprise already filed the patent, and we’re looking forward to seeing it in action.
To infinity… and beyond! But you have to drink your pee 💧 [Digitaltrends]
Were you dreaming of becoming an astronaut when you were a kid? NASA’s latest achievements may make that childhood dream less ap-pee-ling. To make long-distance human missions (Mars and beyond) possible, NASA engineers have been developing a system to recover water by recycling astronauts’ breath, sweat and urine using filters and processors. While the great minds behind this innovation admit that the idea of drinking recycled urine doesn’t sound very attractive, they claim that the water produced by the system is “far superior” to that produced by municipal water systems. Maybe rethink that trip to Mars planned for the summer?
In case you haven’t had enough:
The chip patterning machines that will shape computing’s next act [MIT Technology Review]
AI is killing the old web, and the new web struggles to be born [The Verge]
Hitting the Books: How hackers turned cybercrime into a commercial service [Endgadget]
Welcome to the big blimp boom [MIT Technology Review]
Scientists find ‘ghost particles’ spewing from our Milky Way galaxy in landmark discovery [Space]
About this week’s guest editor, Julia Miriam Piwowarska
It’s been a year since my TechAways guest editorial debut, and I’m happy to report that not much has changed since then. I’m still Polish, still in love with Brussels, and still part of SEC Newgate EU’s brilliant media team. When not reading tech news, I fill my time with food, fin de siècle art, and annoying my co-workers about astrology.