Sage Franch is a seasoned technology educator, developer, and creator of tech lifestyle blog TrendyTechie.ca. In preparation for her talk Singularity-Proof Yourself, at FITC Toronto 2018, we caught up with her for insights into the digital future.
What’s the next piece of emerging tech you think will be huge this time in 2020?
I think in two years we’ll see a lot more haptic technology – tech that gives you physical cues as well as visual and auditory ones. VR is finally commercially viable and headsets are starting to find their homes in living rooms worldwide, and I think in two years people will crave the more immersive experiences, both in and out of virtual reality.
"Until we can feel virtual worlds, we can’t be truly immersed."
So I think the next big consumer tech craze will be haptic suits and other ways of getting tactile feedback from our digital systems – and this will extend to more physical feedback tools for our non-VR devices too.
We’ve seen that a main problem with gender equality in STEM isn’t just getting women and girls into the field, but keeping them there. What do you think are some ways we can encourage long term careers for women in STEM fields?
One of the biggest reasons that minorities leave tech jobs – not just women, but other minorities as well – is unfairness. Unfairness in pay, underrepresentation in decision making, and a lack of consideration for the needs of intersectionally diverse employees when leadership makes changes.
To truly embrace diversity, companies need to do more than just host women-in-tech events and hire diverse talent. We need to see more tangible commitment to inclusion. This means making sure your diverse employees are heard, and allowing them to bring their unique perspectives into the workplace culture. It means providing safe avenues for people to talk about discrimination at work, and to raise concerns without fear of retaliation. We need leadership to embrace diversity without it just being a KPI.
This is actually the focus of my startup, Crescendo – Inclusive Workplaces. At Crescendo, we’re building a toolkit that helps diverse employees navigate workplace discrimination and provides leadership with insight into how they can make their workplaces more inclusive. People in tech want to solve the problem, they just don’t know how. We’re here to help.
The fields of augmented and virtual realities are surging right now and creeping their way into the mainstream - what do you see as the next step in wide scale adoption of these technologies?
Truly wearable devices! And I don’t mean wearable as in “technically able to be worn,” I mean wearable as in “people will wear it.”
"No one wants to wear a heavy, tethered headset that restricts their movement. Putting on an xR headset needs to feel as natural as wearing a baseball cap."
Ideally, these devices will retrofit to our current prescription eyewear and be minimally invasive. Once that’s true, the xR revolution can really happen.
Your talk at FITC Toronto 2018 is about ways to avoid becoming obsolete by the singularity - do you think we’re on the verge of artificial intelligence reaching those levels?
We’re on the verge of a new era where tech starts to surprise us. I don’t think the singularity will come in the ways we expect it to – it’s not going to be autonomous humanoids who destroy us to save us, and it’s not going to be machines that replicate humans indistinguishably. Machine intelligence will always look different than human intelligence, and I do believe that machines will surpass us in my lifetime.
"I think the singularity will sneak up on us – at least those of us who are not in the labs with AI – and one day we’ll notice that it’s upon us, in ways we didn’t foresee."
Can you describe your favourite moment from an FITC event?
At last year’s FITC Toronto I got to sit down and chat with some amazing speakers – one of my favourite moments was talking with Anouk Wipprecht about her incredible robotic garments!
The best thing about the FITC community is that everyone comes from vastly different backgrounds, but we all share a common excitement for the future. It’s a true intersection of innovators from all walks of life.