Whether you call it the metaverse, megaverse, or multiverse, our future selves will undoubtedly live in a world mixed with real and virtual experiences that is unlike anything we know today. And that future will be built on the backbone of unfathomable amounts of code.
As much as I’d like to believe that code is infallible and unbiased, it’s not. Coders are human, and for the last 40 years those humans have been primarily white men. Even today, 65 percent of computer programmers are white (non-Hispanic), and the nonprofit group Girls Who Code reports only 22 percent of computer programmers identify as female.
The idea that a small slice of humanity has and will create social and working platforms for the rest of humankind unless more diverse people take part is alarming. If you think it’s not your problem, think again. “Biases in artificial intelligence algorithms affect everyone from creators to citizens, so the need for diversity is imperative, ”explains Pat Yongpraditchief academic officer at Code.org.
Plus, do we want more of what we have now, with the big social media companies’ issues surrounding privacy, misinformation, and manipulation? “Future generations are going to do things with technology that we can only imagine. The more folks we have at the table as it’s being built, the better chance we have at building something that’s different from what we had before, ”says Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls Code.
The good news is that many apps and services, both nonprofit and for-profit, are working hard to inspire all children to love computer science and build diversity into the landscape of what’s to come.
Increasing computer science participation among students from underrepresented groups is written into Code.org’s mission statement. The nonprofit is the largest provider of free curricula, lesson plans, teacher training, and programming environments within schools.
Code.org is unique because it focuses on systematic change from the federal government to state and local levels. Its yearly state of computer science education report provides updates on computer science education policy, including policy trends, maps, state summaries, and implementation data.
In 2013, the group launched its highly successful Hour of Code, a worldwide effort to celebrate computer science, starting with hour-long coding activities. Today, Hour of Code has reached tens of millions of students in more than 180 countries.
Kids can try free coding projects through the Code.org website. If your school does not offer computer science education, you can help through donations, volunteering, reaching out to your school, and promoting computer science in your area.
Kimberly Bryant, an electrical engineer by trade, founded Black Girls Code (BGC) in 2010 after noticing few students of color in the coding and robotics workshops her middle-school-age daughter loved. “I wanted to create an opportunity for my daughter to learn these tangible skills, but also to build her self-confidence and leadership abilities in a space where it was safe for her to be herself,” says Bryant.