2019 People Science Tech: What We’re Excited about in the New Year

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Each year there are technologies that define us–as humans, as students, as professionals, and in culture. We pay especially close attention to the technologies that change the way we live, engage, and interact. And that’s what we focus in on each January when our team of communication experts, technical creators, and data scientists scour the technical landscape to discover what’s next.

2018 was a tough year for tech, between “fake news” crises and loss of trust in social media to Amazon’s fraught search for new headquarters to Elon Musk’s meltdown. For good reason, 2018 was a year that made us—society as a whole—question our relationship with technology. It was a year we will never forget. But we’re optimists, and here in our communication-centric corner of the tech industry, we have a lot to look forward to.

3 Things We’re Excited about in 2019

While the individual innovations themselves are, of course, fascinating, what we’re most passionate about are the ways we can implement these innovations to improve the way we connect with one another online, in person, at work, and in everyday life.

Here are three ways we’re excited to use tech in 2019.

1.   To Decipher the Truth

Yes, technology has been responsible for much of the proliferation of “fake news” across countless platforms. But it’s also been one of the most critical means by which we’ve been able to identify and weed out imposters and fabrications.

AI researchers across the country are looking for ways to leverage AI to detect fake news stories, and one Clemson management professor is working on categorizing fake news the same way our inboxes categorize spam, according to a recent Boston Globe article:

Marten Risius, an assistant professor of management at Clemson, had the same idea not long after the 2016 election. He and a colleague in Germany, Christian Janze, went to work on an automatic fake news detector.

“We heard it wasn’t possible to predict fake news on social media, and we thought that doesn’t make a lot of sense to us,” said Risius. After all, he reasoned, computers can be taught to recognize all kinds of patterns. Perhaps fake news stories, like spam e-mails, shared many common characteristics.

Other platforms can spot dishonesty through language, voice, and facial expression analysis. While it’s undoubtedly an uphill battle, countless researchers in artificial intelligence and machine learning are working tirelessly to put an end to the proliferation of fake news and restore our trust in the media.

Platforms we are most excited about:

  1. New Knowledge: This Austin company was the first organization outside the U.S. intelligence community to identify Russia’s campaign to influence the 2016 election, and their mission is to prevent the spread of manipulative online campaigns and protect national security agencies, responsible leaders, and trusted brands from misinformation.
  2. The Trust Project: This consortium of top news companies is dedicated to developing transparency standards that help consumers easily assess the quality and credibility of the journalism that comes across their screens.
  3. Blockchain: In its various applications, blockchain is transforming data security by providing open, distributed ledgers that can record transactions in a secure, modification-resistant way, ensuring transparency and accuracy.

2.   To Improve Education

Part of our bread and butter here at Quantified is using communication analytics to improve higher-education faculty and staff’s ability to equip students with the skills they’ll need to succeed as leaders after graduation. These traditionally hard-to-measure and highly personal skills are notoriously difficult to teach to large groups in short periods of time, but the power of technologies like natural language processing, vocal and facial analysis, and machine learning allow professors to create tailor-made curricula based on students’ needs, and they allow students to work on exactly what they need to work on—and track their progress.

But that’s not all. Technology is having the same powerful impact on programs of all shapes and sizes, helping students and teachers personalize curricula by adding data and blending online and in-person learning to ensure each student gets exactly the support she needs.  Across the country, education technology—and specifically Artificial Intelligence and its offshoots—is being used as a socioeconomic equalizer, giving students for whom traditional higher education may be out of reach access to quality education inside and outside of the classroom.

In our book, anything we can do to improve education—and access to quality education—is a huge win for our society, present and future.

Platforms we are most excited about:

  1. The Lambda School: The Lambda School is making world-class software engineering education accessible by offering training at no upfront cost. Rather than pay tuition, participants in the 30-week, immersive program agree to pay a percentage of their income after training, as long as they’re making at least $50,000 per year.
  2. Knewton: Knewton’s adaptive education technology puts achievement in reach through personalized, adaptive course content that support student learning at affordable prices.

3.   To Improve Work

Outside of the classroom, technology is improving the way we work, and in more ways than simply tracking and monitoring productivity. The same kind of educational technology that empowers students to develop critical professional skills is giving HR and L&D leaders an opportunity to provide huge groups of employees with quality, personalized, lasting training on a modest budget. And they’re not only teaching hard skills—they’re also improving morale by emphasizing the “soft skills” that will have a powerful impact on collaboration among and across teams.

Research has shown over and over that one of the biggest keys to engaging and retaining employees is giving them development opportunities. Not only does ongoing education help the company improve its processes and its bottom line, but it helps maintain loyalty by showing top talent that their leaders are invested in their personal, professional growth and development. In today’s tight labor market, savvy HR and talent leaders are embracing the smart use of technology to break through employee retention barriers without breaking the bank.

Platforms we are most excited about:

  1. Humu: Google alum Laszlo Bock’s new people science platform uses AI fed by data from employee surveys to “nudge” leaders and team members toward behaviors likely to improve workforce happiness.
  2. MIT Connection Science: This cross-disciplinary effort from faculty and researchers across MIT is working to harness digital network data (from social media, civic infrastructure systems, enterprise databases, and more to help corporate and government leaders open up new possibilities through deeper insights into trends and patterns in human behavior.

There’s long been a simmering concern that technology innovations are skyrocketing faster than we can consider the laws, and regulations that will govern their use. And in recent years, we’ve seen some of the troubling consequences of that exponential growth. However, here at Quantified, we’re optimistic about the power of technology, when used ethically, to bring us closer together as students, leaders, and human beings, and we’re honored to play even the smallest role in that movement.