Women In Tech

Zuckerberg Resolves to Invent, Encourages Girls to Invent Too

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s 2016 resolution to challenge himself outside his work is to build a simple artificial intelligence assistant to run his home and help him do a better job juggling his business responsibilities.

“You can think of it kind of like Jarvis in ‘Iron Man,'” he suggested.

Zuckerberg first will explore the available technology, then train it to understand his voice to control everything in his home.

At work, the AI will allow him to visualize data in virtual reality to help him build better services and lead his organizations more effectively.

“It’s a different kind of rewarding to build things yourself, so my personal challenge is to do that,” Zuckerberg said.

He could be tempted by some of the shortcuts already available, however.

“Mark says he wants to write the code, but he’d find it easier if he starts with a kit like the one from iRobot,” remarked Sue Rudd, a research director at Strategy Analytics.

Or, he could look at Brookstone’s Robotis Mini Robot Kit, she told TechNewsWorld.

The Masses React

Zuckerberg’s announcement drew responses from a crowd of people marketing their products, along with some who offered observations ranging from wise to wacky.

One comment that elicited great interest — as well as a reply from Zuckerberg — came from Darlene Loretto, who wrote that she keeps telling her granddaughters to “date the nerd in school, he may turn out to be a Mark Zuckerberg!”

It would be “even better … to encourage them to *be* the nerd in their school so they can be the next successful inventor!” Zuckerberg responded.

That triggered a spate of comments.

“Amazing response, Mark!” wrote Melanie Maiorca.

“I say the same to my daughter Eden,” commented Debbie Parry, who said she was “badly bullied at school” and didn’t want her daughter to go through that.

“Great answer,” wrote Cookie Caporaso. “Love that. I taught myself how to rebuild and repair computers and build gaming systems. I had no idea 20 years ago but never gave up.”

Women in STEM

The Obama administration considers supporting women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) an essential part of America’s competitive strategy.

The United States Office of Science and Technology Policy is working with the White House Council on Women and Girls to increase the participation of women, girls, and other underrepresented groups in STEM.

In Europe, there’s the TWIST (Towards Women in Science and Technology) project.

However, the number of women in physics, engineering and computer science is low globally, according to Women in Global Science & Technology, and it’s declining in several leading countries — including the U.S.

In countries where the number of women studying science and technology has increased, it has not followed that more women have been employed in those fields.

The Zuckerberg Factor

“It would be great to see STEAM and STEM programs at schools quoting [Zuckerberg] on this suggestion that girls should be nerds, not just try to date them,” said Susan Welsh de Grimaldo, a research director at Strategy Analytics.

“There are lots of sports role models, but fewer good nerd role models, especially female role models,” she told TechNewsWorld. Schools could then move beyond that to “transform the idea that innovating and creating technology is not just a nerd thing, or that being a nerd is a very positive thing.”

Zuckerberg should promote the idea of girls becoming nerds jointly with his COO, Sheryl Sandberg, who wrote the book Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead, Rudd suggested.

“Even in my youth many executives were encouraging to women, but I find there are fewer women in technology today than when I started,” Rudd said. “Sheryl’s book deals with some of the reasons.”

Richard Adhikari

Richard Adhikari has written about high-tech for leading industry publications since the 1990s and wonders where it's all leading to. Will implanted RFID chips in humans be the Mark of the Beast? Will nanotech solve our coming food crisis? Does Sturgeon's Law still hold true? You can connect with Richard on Google+.

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