Making society inclusive by design

On my travels, I often have really interesting experiences, insights and great conversations with the people I meet along the way. In the last few days I travelled through a few storms from the Beast to the East, a bomb cyclone and storm Emma, I think I might have met them all on my to Boston and Hartford in the USA for the Hartford insurance tech hackathon. On the way over I watched a few great movies Marshall and Same kind of different, both addressing racism, prejudice and other unsavoury practices in all of our societies where divides exist.

I have to say living in Europe and viewing the USA from a difference allows for a lot of generalisation and obviously not understanding the nuances in so far that they don’t exist to the same extremes in Europe or just exist differently I guess. It’s not until you have deep conversations and the occasional more superficial conversation with the local waiter or taxi driver. From a distance looking at the political situation makes it easy to have an opinion. But watching the news from the Fox and CNN angles is like watching two different universes in the same location.

I had a brief conversation with a taxi driver who was a staunch Trump supporter and he blamed everything that was wrong with the USA on Obama, I didn’t push for it or question it, but I reckon he also blamed the bad weather on him. Immigration was the main bugbear in his rhetoric. He was white, in his 70’s and could barely afford to live in his original city.

I also had a way more meaningful conversation with Erik Evans, a great facilitator for the event I was attending and motivational speaker. He is black and even in his lifetime experienced slavery, working for the people in the KuKuxClan and real hardship and racism just purely because of the colour of his skin. In the current regime, he feels open racism is encouraged and promoted in more than one way. The stories he told me, were just heartwrenching. For me, he was a great facilitator, great at the work he is doing and I appreciated him for that. I like to think that for me colour really is not the deciding factor, I would, however, judge on skills. I have some great multi-coloured friends group all over the world and I love it like that. Usually, they are people passionate about their work and really good at it too.

Either way, the conversations touched me and made me question whether it would be possible in our work with gamification, whether we could create an inclusive society by design. I do a lot of research on inclusion based on gender, age and I will from now on include colour. From my understanding, a lot of society in the US was built with exclusion in mind and segregation at its core. In other parts of the world, class or privilege is the dividing factor or gender, in the parts of the world where women can’t or are not allowed to have the same rights as boys or men.

So here is the thing, I wonder can we design a society where we are inclusive from the reset, I would love to say outset but that would imply we can build some kind of utopia from scratch. I am not sure if it can work, but I guess we would have to give it a try to find out. I am not sure what it would take to realise. My idealistic self would love to think that we could change perceptions, by having people walk in the other persons’ shoes through means of virtual or augmented reality, experiencing the world through their eyes. The trigger would be an observed injustice from an observer or the person in question, he or she could then trigger an equal experience to the bystanders or active players in the experience to let them in on how they felt. At the end of the reverse experience, we could get both parties to rate their emotional reaction, their willingness to change and a question of what would have made this experience good or acceptable.

I am not sure if the really staunch believers in the rights of one side would change, but at least they may open their minds to different experiences. I find it fascinating and enriching to travel and meet people and learn how they see the world through their eyes. Often the people with pre-conceived ideas, have not opened their eyes and minds to travel or see the world through a local person’s eyes or even had conversations to that effect. It isn’t always easy and it will make you question your belief system, but I guess that maybe we have to challenge those very norms to actually make a difference.

I am not sure if we can make this kind of system happen in our lifetime, maybe it may take a few generations. At the same time not trying is like accepting what we currently have as good and I know in my heart that it isn’t. As an idealist and dreamer, I would love to have a magic reset wand that just can move the unsavoury behaviours out of this world. I guess as one person I can do my best to make the world around me better and to be aware of my prejudices, privileges and be respectful and open to those of others. Yet somehow it leaves me unsatisfied that it isn’t enough.

It is a more philosophical post, and whilst what I would love to see happen through new technology may not solve everything, but it could be the ripple that moves a few people to change their views and behaviours. That to me makes it worthwhile. So, who is with me on this and willing to give it a try even locally? What else can we do?


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