Empowering women in tech and advocating for ethical AI

Can AI create poetry? Will driverless cars navigate through Athens anytime soon? Will Facial Recognition Technologies be deployed in public places? One of our latest members can suggest many potential answers to these intriguing questions. Sacha analyses ethical guidelines and suggests policy frameworks on artificial intelligence (AI). She works for the nonprofit think-tank The Future Society that focuses on AI policy and ethics. We had the chance to speak with her about her research on AI and the role of women in tech, a field that she is motivated to promote. 

Sacha on the coworking rooftop

Getting into the tech industry and AI policy

Sacha is Franco-Chilean. She was raised in Paris and studied politics, philosophy, and economics in the UK, France, and the US.  During her Master’s studies in International Affairs in Paris, she participated in an exchange program in Boston. This decision was a turning point for her career in AI policy. It is during this exchange program that she met the co-founder and president of The Future Society, Nicolas Miailhe. While in Boston she became accustomed to AI and digital innovation, but also to the lack of women and minorities present in this field. 

She is an inspiring example to everyone who loves traveling and experiencing new ways of working with others. Furthermore, she did research about the lack of women in the tech sector: the gap is huge for reasons that are both social and economic. Her studies led her to argue that diversity (ethnic, gender, socio-economic, political) is an important factor to boost productivity and creativity in the workplace. 

Sacha on the rooftop

From theory to practice: working on responsible AI adoption  

Once back in Paris, Sacha was able to reconnect with The Future Society’s co-founder and evolve in an innovative, rapidly changing field. The Future Society specializes in the ethics and governance of AI while advancing its responsible adoption for the benefit of humanity. At the same time, they support the empowerment and active voice of women in tech. In the upcoming month, Sacha will work on Tunisia’s AI National Strategy.

She has also conducted research on different relative topics. These include the ethical challenges for the adoption of contact tracing apps, and the use of AI to fight against the pandemic (with the Global Partnership for AI). As a side project, she built a whole digital community of Affiliates, coming from 20 countries, to advance responsible AI adoption globally and support the organization’s workstreams. They share their views and experiences through a Slack group while using the Signal app for chatting.

Sacha and colleagues

Digital innovation & AI policy for a sustainable society

Sacha’s research on AI policy is about finding the right balance between capturing the upsides of AI and limiting its risks.

AI development can lead to curated educational programs and healthcare self-diagnosis on one hand, and online surveillance and political disinformation on the other. 
For example, Sacha notes that digital contact tracing apps used during the pandemic may be very helpful to identify clusters and limit the spread of the virus. But on the other hand, citizens may not use these apps, even when the design achieves high levels of data privacy, as they have lost trust in governmental authorities and are suspicious of technology using sensitive data! 
Moreover, Sacha underlined the example of automatization of work. Automatization done correctly can bring work-life balance with less working hours, more free time, and same or higher salary. We must change the way we think about labor values and measurements of productivity, she adds. Lifelong learning can help prepare workers for upskilling and repurposing of work goals and practices. 

Sacha and colleagues in Athens

“It is important to remember  that we are still at the dawn of AI adoption, so many paths are possible. We tend to think that the course of technology is linear, when actually we can collectively decide upon its trajectory.”

How does AI relate to remote work?

Digital innovation and AI policy are definitely related to coworking practices! So we asked Sacha to suggest tips and apps we can use while working remotely to keep our private data safe:

  • Using a Protonmail
  • Trying the Signal app
  • Connecting to a VPN
  • Installing an Adblocker is such a relief!
  • Checking the cookies on a website is truly crucial too! Let’s learn to avoid the “accept all” option!

The EU currently has one of the most regulated frameworks in the world (GDPR) so it takes two seconds to check your cookies!

The pandemic is an awakening call that teaches us to be able to organize ourselves in distance and work remotely. This can happen on a personal level. We learned from Sacha that Greece kickstarted the process to draft its AI strategy last summer. This builds on other local ongoing initiatives, such as the “AI and Rule of Law” Roundtable, which happens every October. According to the Chair Of the AI and Rule Law initiative, Nicolas Economou, who organized the second annual Athens Roundtable on  “AI and the rule of law” last October, this is a very promising initiative that will also help Greece digitize its public sector. 

Sacha in AI civic forum

Advocating for more women in tech

During her exchange in Boston, Sacha researched the reasons behind the lack of women and minorities in the tech sector. She shared some shocking numbers! According to a report published in 2019, there are only 18% of women researchers in the field of AI.  This inspired her to build curriculums and mentorship programs in AI policy and ethics to train more women in this field. And we might get a taste because we discussed planning an AI policy and ethics discussion group at Stone Soup too (of course we’ll let you know)!

Sacha coworker on rooftop

Working on digital innovation from Athens

Do you know what else boosts Sacha’s creativity? Athens itself! She ended up here during the pandemic when she realized that she doesn’t have to stay in a specific place to work. She admits that the sun makes her more productive. Athens is an underrated city in her opinion, still unnoticed by many apart on their way to the Cyclades, and she characterized it as the Berlin of the Mediterranean! She loves how the city flourishes artistically while conserving its original vibes. Because of her work,  Sacha is often thinking about the future, and in Athens, she finds the perfect balance to live in the present as well. And we are happy to add her ingredients to our pot!

Digital Art in Athens and beyond: a curator’s view

For Foteini Vergidou, 2020 was a milestone year for digital culture and contemporary art. Our new member is a curator, researcher, and project manager based in Athens. 

“2020 was a year of living online and I don’t know if there will be any difference between art and digital culture from now on.”

Her curatorial practice focuses on the impact of technological advancements on human relations, on human-machine relations, and between humans and their ecosystem. She explores issues related to cultural identity, climate change, surveillance, and big data.

We had a chance to speak with her about the current digital art scene of Athens and the value of digital media for contemporary artists. 

Foteini coworker member at Stone Soup

Exploring digital art: getting exposed to experiences abroad

Foteini represents a brain gain example. She obtained an MA in Interactive Media: Critical Theory and Practice from the Goldsmiths University of London. While studying she explored the contemporary art scene in London and indulged in her research interests before moving to Berlin to work in the iconic transmediale festival.  She stayed in Berlin for 3 years and worked as a gallery manager in DNA Berlin. Such an international and multicultural environment equipped her with an open mind towards work-related issues. As a result, living and working abroad made her realize that there is no center of experiences and no bipolar divisions between “us” and “them”.

She returned and settled in Athens in 2015. In that year,  Foteini worked as Coordinator and Project Manager for Kappatos Athens Art Residency Program. During this period, she collaborated with international artists such as Martin Creed, Roy Ascott, and Santiago Sierra. She also curated the Web Art exhibition category for the Athens Digital Arts Festival in Greece for the 11th and 12th editions. Most recently, she curated the Hysterophimia Pavilion, the Greek Pavilion for the 4th edition of The Wrong Digital Art Biennale (2019 – 2020) exploring the contemporary culture around Images, from selfies to big data. 

Since 2018, she has worked as Curatorial Advisor and Project Manager for the artist Kalliopi Lemos, developing research upon themes that center around migration, human rights, and gender injustice. At the same time, she worked on different projects in Athens and abroad promoting artists through digital media.

Online culture and physical community: two sides of a common goal

For Foteini, the experiences triggered and gained abroad can be developed in one’s own country. Physical and online interaction with audiences and other creative professionals, input and output of experiences, drive a successful exposure.

Thus, community and network building play an important part in her career. It is actually the first thing she advises every new artist to pursue through physical and digital media. On one hand, this is the reason she joined a coworking space. It offers a physical chance of socialization, necessary to bring together different perspectives and ideas among professionals. On the other hand, artists can achieve digital interconnectivity and exposure through investment in up-to-date online platforms and social media like Instagram. In the last few years, digital art and media became an upcoming field in Athens. The pandemic boosted this relatively new way of promotion and highlighted the importance of the transition to online representation.

Foteini coworker member at Stone Soup

Tips for new artists: digital platforms are the future

But how can an artist take advantage of the digital media available to promote their body of work? Foteini describes a few fruitful moves they can make: network building, social media, research in up-to-date websites, platforms, funding. An artist’s online presence should include a social media account, like Instagram, where they promote their artwork. Through this medium, their physical network can interact with them and give them feedback. 

Also, for Foteini the curative process is connected with a certain amount of research. Every exhibition is the result of a body of research that she deals with at a particular moment. Since 2017, she is an editor and writer at FerociousUrbanites.com, where she conducts research around issues that derive from our relation to technology. This is also an example of an up-to-date website with a strong focus on promoting Greek digital artists to an international audience. Browsing websites like this can offer artists and art lovers inspiration and information about online culture and digital art.

Since 2019, she is an active member of the TILT platform, bringing together creative people including artists, researchers, and theorists. She is always seeking collaboration with other professionals, coming often from diverse disciplines and practices, in order to develop synergies and joint projects. Her main goal is to conduct collective research, while forming an exhibition or a public intervention, in order to reveal different perspectives. The exhibition “Iasis” she curated for the TILT platform presented a body of work, artworks, educational seminars, and workshops, that investigated the political and social dimensions of global human activity. The TILT platform is an example of a network-building initiative for artists. Foteini compares it with a coworking space where members can interact and share their ideas and projects.

Foteini in an open coworking space

Picks ‘n tips for digital culture events & art-lovers

Foteini thinks that the contemporary Athenian cultural scene is experimental, as is the city itself. The pandemic has boosted the transition to online representation even though she agrees that there are limits. For example, both theatre and art exhibitions had to offer the audience an experience mediated by the Internet. Big and small institutions had to adapt to the new condition and the results are appealing to many. She points out that the initiatives to promote online culture from Onassis Foundation and the PCAI are worth “browsing”. Furthermore, digital media like Instagram are basic components of projects curated by 3137, an artist-run space in Athens. On the international side, she suggests visiting the  Top Museum (Tokyo Photographic Art) and the Overkill festival.

Foteini’s expertise as a curator is to manage all these tasks! And you are welcome to contact us and get in touch! She acts as a mediator between artistic expression and public perception. Nevertheless, she is a strong supporter of the “artist’s fee”, the payment that every creator must demand in exchange for the presentation of their work. She admits that the current focus on digital art, both in Athens and internationally, can pose new challenges for artists. Her advice to them is to always seek copyright and legal support before participating in online exhibitions.

Foteini in an open coworking space

“Always reinvent yourself and be adjustable”

This is what she learned and suggests to every art worker in the post-pandemic world. There is no need for a laptop if a creative professional pursues exposure and openness, values that she found in a coworking space. For her, coworking offers inspiration through interaction without the extra layer of workplace stress. And in these crazy times, a casual chat in a safe space can be more creative than ever!   

Most secure mobile devices: Apple or Android?

How secure your data is may depend on the mobile you use. Much has been said about choosing the right mobile phone for the needs of each user. Most people seem to tend to Android or iOS operating systems. But which is the safest operating system when it comes to protection against malware?

secure mobile

Malware and secure mobile devices

The most common method of importing phone spying software is by sending an SMS, which contains the malware. When the message is opened by the users, their devices have just been hacked! Another method is to transfer the program over Bluetooth. This method is often used by people who are spying on their relatives such as husbands who think that their wives are cheating on them. Once installed, the program logs every activity of the device.

If the user wishes to do so, he can intercept calls, SMS messages, MMSs, e-mails and all the files that the phone sends and receives. The user can also activate the GPS location service and therefore is able to know the phone’s position on the map – at all times. The software also gives the user full control over the device.

Apple mechanisms for secure mobiles

In data protection, Apple (iOS) has made the big difference. The security level of their devices is much higher than the others’. Factors that enhance the security of iOS devices are that the user cannot unlock the bootloader. In addition, a powerful malware protection mechanism is pre-installed on the device.

Also, due to the strict inspections that Apple makes on app-store applications, viruses are extremely rare to exist. In the past, malware incidents had been reported inside the app store, but the company was able to detect, remove them and achieve secure mobile devices.

From the 100 malwares that hackers create, 97 are made for Android and just 3 for iPhone.

Using iCloud protection against malware

ICloud is one of the major security mechanisms of iOS devices. In addition to its ability to store data, it secures the files of our device with a lock code which, even the most experienced hackers can’t crack. Furthermore, this lock, is not only applied on the device. Apple’s servers are informed that the iPhone with the specific IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) is locked. Thus, the owner can lock it at any time or even remotely delete everything. Even if someone bypasses this security mechanism, the only thing they can do is to format the device. This means completely erasing the device’s data without the possibility of data retrieval.

Apple’s Surveillance Policy for mobile security

iOS

Apple, as a company seems to be really strict when it comes to cellphone spying even in extreme cases. A typical example was the investigation of the terrorist attack in San Bernardino. When asked by the authorities to unlock a device, the response was: “The government is asking us to hack our own users and ruin many years of work on mobile phone security. This has no precedent in any American company and carries a huge risk of future attacks.”

iOS devices may undoubtedly be more difficult to use, especially for people who have never used them before, but the security benefits provided are worth the minimum time it takes for the new user to get familiar.

How to tell if someone is spying our mobile

When there is a malware installed on the phone, whether for spying on facebook conversations or for stealing credentials, it is just an application that uses resources. This means, that the phone’s processor has to execute more tasks, there is an increase in mobile data usage and an increase in battery usage. When the processor and battery are used to the maximum, the phone’s temperature usually rises.

secure mobile

Spying software sends the information collected over the internet. Thus, the usage of mobile data doubles. These indications can tell us if our device is infected with malware.

Spying on the spies

The methods for dealing with spying are often the same as spying is executed using software. The first method is to check the applications that are installed on the device. Any application that is not installed by the owner must be considered suspicious.

secure mobile

If the software is presented as a system application in order to avoid being detected, an online search for certified system applications of the device can give us the answer. Otherwise it is necessary to reset the phone to factory settings. This will erase all data and the mobile will return to its original secure state. Generally, if the origin of a file, message or application is not known, we should immediately delete it from our device or not download it at all.

Article written by Themis Georgiadis, Software engineer with expertise in web technologies.
Find a version of the article in Greek here