Innovation Spotlight: 5 Questions with Yonah Welker
Technology and human thinking can’t blend together right? Wrong. Meet Yonah Welker whose been working on the intersection of tech and society since 2005. Having founded and co-created tech startups and labs and helped to facilitate tech ecosystems across the globe, he’s sharing his story with us. Want to learn more about how Yonah’s leading the way in inclusive tech? Join our upcoming masterlclass here.
What is your mission and why does it drive you?
“My mission is to advance algorithmic diversity and nonbinary vision of technology into the mainstream, designing better ecosystems, classes, cities… It’s driven by my own struggles, social and health limitations over the last decades. I was forced to literally design my own world to socialize and educate myself.
Currently, we tend to see “inclusion” as a very narrow direction, dividing gender equality, neurodiversity, mental health. Though, all of these directions have much more in common in technology and social perspectives senses both in terms of challenges and solutions.
So my goal is to connect the dots between technologists, venture capitalists, researchers and ethicists to design balanced ecosystems.”
What does tech to reimagine human potential and diversity look like exactly?
“I believe that the future of technology is non-binary. There is no the same brain, mental or psychological pattern, so non-binary in technology means democratization, decentralization and personalization in how we see, design and deliver solutions and products.
In the most simple sense, it involves precision medicine, adaptive learning or personalized apps. But now we have an opportunity to deliver it in a much broader sense – algorithmic diversity, when we are able to align not just design to individual, but also algorithms and technologies in scale, through leveraging, for instance, open care or collaborative learning platforms.
I try to push this mission through several directions. On one hand, I’ve been working to create a long-life fund to support research for the future of ability, diversity & nonbinary tech.
It backs the mission and values behind most of my projects. On the other hand, I’ve started to collect micro-portfolios of emerging products and companies through boarding and alliances (currently, there are several directions: “1st” – future of learning, wellbeing, work, “2nd” – gender, women and diversity products, “3rd” – sustainable/circular materials and consumer products).
I’m also involved in various projects related to ethics, inclusion and decentralization.”
What are 2 projects in your career that have stood out for you?
“It’s always difficult to choose! I would like to recall several things which I consider important. In 2016-17 my health wasn’t really good (actually, I was in a terrible situation!), so I was a bit out of my typical pace of work.
These days, I’ve spent my time as an educator at university and innovation labs, working with students. At some point, I needed to create a project / task for them. I’ve decided to go with a concept of “decentralized philanthropy”.
Interestingly, enough that this project has grown into an actual self-organized network, which later we turned into the foundation.
We literally spent zero dollars. But we were able to explore over 500 fellows around the world, using a community model and leveraging a network of university campuses. 2 of our applicants were Nobel Laureates in peace! It was pretty impressive!
Did you know that facial recognition fails to correctly recognize women or people of colour in over 30% cases? It leads to many issues, including false legal accusations or even arrests.
Recently, we’ve worked with these communities on hackathons, programs and Ebooks to bring ethical practises and knowledge to the board of not only corporates like Google, Amazon or Microsoft, but also emerging practitioners and even school students (who are already actively working on technology products).”
You’ve founded multiple businesses, would you encourage others to take the entrepreneurial path?
“I believe I’m an explorer and creator/artist (in a holistic sense) first, using technology (also startups, tech ecosystems) as a tool, but not as a goal.
As for entrepreneurship, It was about obstacles! Since I wasn’t able to accommodate myself to society and the traditional educational system due to health challenges, I shifted to self-learning when I was a teenager.
I started to cover technology and hardware as an editor. I still remember that my first big article was about NVIDIA journey from NV1 chip and startup stage to corporation scope.
A few years later, I came up with my first media platform and research tank. Later, I’ve explored my other passions – music and art. While working on my material, I became interested in peer to peer networks, and that’s how I merged into data, AI and deeptech related startups.”
You’re also a mentor and have worked with some of the youngest tech minds. Why is being a mentor important to you?
“Yes! Just this week I’m mentoring 11-18 year old female AI inventors as part of the Ada Lovelace hackathon… And just a few months ago I mentored the world’s youngest AI inventor…I should be the happiest mentor!
Seriously, in my journey, my key motivation was to “keep control” (over my path), “redesign” (my personal ecosystem), “decentralize” (the way how I live, work and communicate), “connect” (like-minded people), and “co-create” (new things and solutions).
I’m still struggling to overcome many challenges of my everyday life, including literate non-existence of particular medicine and drugs, social stigmas and prejudice, binarity of everyday life and disconnection between existing ecosystems and actual people’s needs.
I believe we have enough of capital, technology potential and other resources, but talent is still an extremely limited asset. In my agenda, “mentoring” is associated with a project “nation”, because it is a universal way to connect the dispersed dots of these minds to exchange data, accumulate knowledge, facilitate co-action and work towards better solutions and ecosystems.”
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