Taylor Fang: Making AI Accessible
Two hours north of Salt Lake City, nestled among the mountains in the Cache Valley, is the city of Logan, Utah, where Taylor Fang grew up. She spent her childhood immersed in reading. When she felt isolated, it was her “portal” to discover new ideas about history, society, and the endless possibilities of science.
She loved reading and learning, and Logan’s natural beauty, but couldn’t help feeling isolated.
“Growing up, I saw a lot of the students around me didn't really feel like they had the power to really do anything about the issues that were affecting them… so they created their own ecosystems, but they didn't feel like they really had a lot of power to shape what was happening to them.”
Taylor’s parents invested a lot in her learning, making sure to provide her with rich experiences that would expand her worldview and encourage her to figure out how she wanted to show up and make an impact in the world. The summer after her Freshman year of high school, Taylor attended a camp at Stanford University’s Artificial Intelligence lab that would open her eyes to new possibilities.
The first thing Taylor noticed at camp was the huge gap in the opportunities she and her peers had growing up, compared to the new girls she met. They already knew what their passions were, and they’d grown up believing they could shape their own reality by pursuing those passions. At camp, Taylor felt challenged to step out of her comfort zone like never before, and empowered by her new knowledge in an emerging field. Along with two friends, Anne and Joanna, she was inspired to share what she’d learned.
The three girls found lots of online communities, magazines and blogs about fashion targeted to girls, but not much else. Knowledge on advanced technologies like AI just wasn’t accessible to all girls, despite its enormous presence in society and its implications for the future. They created Allgirlithm to change that: by showing female role models in tech, showing the intersections of tech and other areas of interest, and building a like-minded, supportive community.
Allgirlithm started as a blog featuring women in tech, with occasional interviews, resources to share, and a forum. One day on the forum, the team asked what city and state in the US everyone was from. To their surprise, someone replied from outside of the country! In that moment, they realized just how many people they had the power to reach.
The team continued expanding, building partnerships with other female-focused tech organizations, like Pixelhacks in the Bay Area and the Developer Society in the Philippines. Allgirlithm’s growth was exciting, but not without its challenges. As the network grew, coordinating schedules with each other and balancing schoolwork became difficult. At one point, Taylor even doubted they were reaching anyone and thought about quitting. But when she received an email from a group of middle school girls telling her that they had learned about computer science through Allgirlithm, and another from girls who wanted to add links to their Resources page, she was reminded how strong their community had become.
In addition to the blog, news and resource links, Allgirlithm now offers an open-source curriculum so tech clubs can meet or hold workshops anywhere in the world. Clubs present and work through the lessons, sometimes with guest speakers or professors, and build community around understanding AI technology and its implications on society.
The community is the most powerful part. Taylor recalls an experience she had in a workshop, where a young girl nervously confessed that she didn’t know anything, didn’t feel smart, and was worried about what others would think of her. Throughout the workshop, Taylor noticed a change in her attitude: “You could just see the difference in how she felt more confident after just being able to be in this space with other girls, where no one was really judging her and she had a lot of chances to explore and learn.”
Taylor believes that everyone is a changemaker and recognizes that often, the only barriers are access to opportunities and feeling empowered. She envisions a future where that access is equal and the opportunities are unlimited; where technology is present in every aspect of life, but everyone has the tools and mindset to understand it and use it for good.
Story written by Julia Tessler