TheBridge profile: Fiona McEvoy
Name: Fiona McEvoy
Current city: San Francisco, CA
Current job: Tech Ethics Researcher, Writer & Consultant, YouTheData.com
Past job: Head of Campaigns for the BBA, when I lived in the UK.
Q. Favorite spot for a coffee meeting? I'm not a big coffee aficionado like a lot of people in this city, but I really like the space at Vive La Tarte in SOMA.
Q. Describe how a skill you learned in a previous job helped you in your current job. In a previous life, before I went back to grad school, I launched and ran public-facing campaigns. I was able to gain experience in a variety of different sectors and across multiple different issues. Over time I became fascinated with how certain ideas were perceived when they were eventually "released into the wild." These days, no matter what I'm working on, I try to flip the perspective and understand what "ordinary" people might make of it; i.e. the general public. I feel quite strongly that this is a critical - and often missing - angle for AI ethics. My long-term ambition is to help throw the tech ethics conversation wide open.
Q. Job advice in three words? Try to read.
Q. How are you (or your company, org, nonprofit) currently bridging the gap between politics and tech / innovation and regulation? YouTheData.com is a fairly humble blogging platform, but I've been astonished at the reception it has had. It’s a pleasure to be chosen to present some of the ideas in the more mainstream media, as well as at conferences across the US.
At its core, YouTheData is just a place to anticipate the future ethical pressure points of new and emerging tech. The tone is deliberately informal and there is full license to speculate about what may (or may not) come to fruition. The blog considers some of the most pressing issues in the AI ethics space, like security, privacy and algorithmic bias but, importantly, it also gives oxygen to other potential ethical tripwires. It’s so vital that topics like autonomy and authenticity aren't left out of the mix when it comes to discussions about preventative regulation. I like to think we’re playing a small part in keeping them on the tech ethics radar.
Q. What can innovators learn from policymakers? How to slow down, deliberate, and anticipate.
Q. What can policymakers learn from innovators? How to find novel solutions in unexpected places.
Q. Favorite book/podcast/long-form article you recommend? I read a lot, and I still believe that Professor Luciano Floridi's book, "The Fourth Revolution: How the Infosphere is Reshaping Human Reality" is one of the most important books on the issue of tech ethics. Some of the featured technologies may developed since it was published in 2014, but the themes are still so important.
Q. If you had to live in another city, which would it be? I’m lucky enough to have relocated to San Francisco from London, so I’m already familiar with two magnificent cities. I truly believe that living somewhere new helps a person develop - and understand - different perspectives. At some stage I would love to spend more time in Asia, but I also hear that Melbourne is a great place to live. Who knows what the future holds!
Q. Last time you were completely unplugged? Regrettably, too long ago to really recall. I’m not really someone who goes in for “chilling”, and the idea of being remote or detached from civilization sends me a little cold. That said, the more I read the more I become concerned about screen-time and the powerful draw of electronic devices. I’m not so addicted to tech that I don’t occasionally leave my phone at home, so I guess it’s just a case of getting into that type of habit more consciously.
Q. Why are you part of TheBridge community/why do you think it's important this community exists for tech, policy and political professionals? However long you may have worked at the intersection of technology and policy, one thing is still true: we’re only at the beginning. We’re so incredibly early in this journey that the very parameters of the long-term conversation are still undetermined. Figuring things out tends to be better as part of a community that can give advice, support, and share experiences of best practice. That’s why groups like this are invaluable.
Q. How do you unwind after work? I read a lot, and I’m fortunate enough to be in SF where there is a seemingly never-ending selection of places to dine out. I also love to go out and watch stand-up comedy because time spent laughing is never wasted.
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