The Fourth International Women and Justice Summit, jointly organized by the Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Services and the Women and Democracy Association (KADEM), was held online on 26, 27 and 28 November, 2020. The theme of the summit, which was honoured with the participation of His Excellency Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, our President, was “Staying Human in the Digital Age.”

The summit featured Ms. Zehra Zümrüt Selçuk, Turkish Minister of Family, Labour and Social Services, and a large number of lecturers, researchers, authors, bureaucrats, politicians, NGO representatives, journalists and volunteers.

The first day included panel discussions entitled “What does it mean to be human in the digital age?” and “The Digital Age and the Representation of Religious Knowledge” following the opening ceremony and ceremonial speeches. The second day featured panel discussions entitled “Culture and Art” and “Education and Entertainment,” along with speeches about being a child and raising children in the digital age; opportunities, restrictions, advantages and threats of the digital age for parents; and how the digital age affects families and women. On the third day of the summit, panel discussions were held entitled “The Fintech Ecosystem: Digital Payment Systems” and “Information and Manipulation,” interspersed with interim sessions focusing on topics such as “The Problem of Existential Sustainability in the Cyber Age,” “The Digitalization of Information,” and “Confronting Young People in a Techno-Digital World,” which also included debates and attempts to bring solutions to the table.

The following concepts set the overall theme for the Fourth International Women and Justice Summit:

  1. Man grows up in the shadow of other men. We do not allow the enabling technologies of the Digital Age to shape our lives and prevent the prolificacy that passes from man to man. Today, every society should set in motion the elements of its own moral and cultural amassment. Personal relations between humans, which cannot be substituted by anything else, may not be given up in return for the speed and enabling features of the digital world.
  2. The digital world has the power to cut man loose from both nature and God, as well as the truth, only to hurl him towards its “hyper-reality.” An individual in the digital world is first estranged from other people and then from the community. Metaphysical elements like identity, truth and death are exposed to obliteration. It is the illusion that matters in a simulative order. Modern man has instrumentalised everything, with the goal of placing himself in the centre of the simulation universe.
  3. In the digital age, we do not make decisions with our free will, but based on our intuitions, reflexes and impulsive instructions from our brain at an archaic level. Machines perceive those reflexes and impulses, and determine what we have to choose, thanks to the patterns they weave. The fact that a human being’s emotional reactions are analysed by means of sensors, and that it is possible to monitor them everywhere, will render it possible for the digital hegemony to proliferate. The first crucial step is being aware of this hegemony.
  4. The term “echo chamber” refers to the digital environment where humans think that they are making their decisions on their own, but these decisions are actually shaped by algorithms. These algorithms recognize an individual thanks to his imprints in a digital medium, and start to display only such content that he will like. He is stuck in a room where he only hears voices that are similar to his, and sees such content that will attract him. Echo chambers are isolated spaces where messages are magnified and protected during their transmissions. Social-media accounts are the echo chambers of the people. Here, the opinion of the user may not be refuted, and the individual accepts it as his standard of normalcy. We must urgently focus on ways to protect individuals who live in echo chambers and are seized in the grsips of fear to miss news on social media, a syndrome called FOMO (Fear of Missing Out).
  5. The data age is the age of predictability. Only if man is predictable is it possible for the system to function in a stable form. Predictability becomes precious during chaotic times. The software that tracks all digital imprints of a person will first morph him into a predictable existence only to push him towards consumption. First, those who do not want to be predictable should rise against this non-human condition.
  6. We are living through a digitalization era which puts data at its centre. The power and management of data has become crucial because it is indispensable to artificial intelligence. Data monopolization will become the Achilles’ heel of digitalization in the future. The biggest threat to our times is the fact that user data is manipulated only to be used as a weapon. You can transmute data into value only by means of a national technology movement. We are responsible for drawing up a digital transformation roadmap.
  7. Censorship and bans may not be a solution. The majority of our young entrepreneur ecosystem is living within this digital world, and every single ban cripples these entrepreneurs, pulling down the entire ecosystem. The new activism must organize individuals and revolt against corporations and the functional mode of algorithms. There is a need for strong cooperation between NGOs, companies, international agencies and the public to find a solution. The purpose here is to create the “Greenpeace” of data breaches. Humans must reclaim and recover what they have surrendered to machines.
  8. A human brain is skilled at learning, analysis, communication and understanding emotions. Intelligence is the ability to solve problems, while consciousness is the ability to feel fury, enthusiasm, pain and love. That’s the reason why “artificial intelligence” cannot replace human consciousness at the moment. In the digital age, which promises a novel and larger world, we can remain human only if we stick to our “world of sense and meaning.” Like all other ages, we can only find meaning in Religion, Art and Philosophy.
  9. What we call an “environment” is everything with which a child interacts. Extraordinary settings like digital environments and pandemics, parents, school friends, and all other factors directly affect a child’s psychological, behavioural and moral development. Today, children are in non-stop interaction with an uncontrollable world called the Internet. Because of it, children and teenagers have been in the grip of problems more than ever in the last decade, and this includes emotional challenges such as feeling lonely, digital addiction, depression, anxiety, language barriers and social exclusion. A research study where the brain was viewed by means of MR showed that there is a regression in the brains of digitally-addicted children and a failure to grow naturally. That’s the reason why parents have to limit access to the screen and act as role models in this respect.
  10. A child’s basic needs are parental affection and care. Affection manifests itself by way of care, which in turn manifests itself by spending time together. While loneliness gives rise to technological addiction, banning will cause stress in children, coupled with a leaning towards concealing things. It is important for an adult to engage in activities in the digital environment with a sense of mutual trust with the child, as he may better know the digital world, and guide the way for the child.
  11. Research indicates that young people are now learning life through digital channels rather than familial, school and social relations. This gives rise to certain consequences, such as zero tolerance and lack of empathy and the birth of fanaticism in ideology, ideas, brands and sports. According to scientific data, grades in schools are going down. Children are nervous and timid. They mature late. Likewise, problems that are on the rise in children, such as lack of attention, hyperactivity and obesity, are not independent of this digital lifestyle. Unemployment rates among young people are not only on the rise in Turkey, but all around the world because young people are not willing to work, and, consequently, individuals without specific goals and poor social skills are produced because they give up both studying and working. It is obvious that the fundamental factor is in-family communication and interaction, as these are vital for us to remain human. We need to invest in sound familial communication without any violence, provide education for individuals from all age groups, and make education accessible and widespread.
  12. Digital anxiety is a digital syndrome and shows excessiveness. Extreme anxiety is a paralysing thing, while anxiety at a reasonable level is productive and constructive. A parent’s digital anxiety adversely affects a child and causes us to miss new opportunities coming from new technologies. This digital anxiety may be overcome only by means of a competence called literacy. The government and NGOs should provide effective and fast solutions in respect to digital literacy for parents and instructors.
  13. There is a new reality against us. It is called artificial intelligence and it always remembers. We should be aware of what we are doing with it. We do not know that recorded images, voices and data are stored. Privacy and free will are two basic problems of the art in the world of algorithms. How will artists be able to protect their mental privacy in the digital world? If there are systems that can predict your actions, then how can you create a novel thing? A world where the most accurate prediction is created may not be tolerated by art.
  14. Art is the capacity to use imagination. Man has the ability to understand what is harmful to it. If he exercises his skill, he will understand that the digital world, and the new reality offered by it, offers ample opportunities and inspiration for art and artists. We can solve problems that we experience in the virtual world by way of willpower, awareness and technological thinking without prejudice.
  15. There are some barriers faced by women to do business by making use of digital technologies, including a shortage of investment in individual data capitals, less social security for women than men, the lack of access to digital technologies, financial and family problems, digital literacy and foreign language barriers. As a solution, it may be more convenient for women to take loans to invest in data capital. They may be supported by online training courses and digital and professional training programs. By using local solutions with a view to taking a global approach, women may be empowered in the digital era, and we can make progress against problems caused by gender injustice.
  16. Biological features of women, such as pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, etc., are considered a barrier and a drawback in the male-dominated business world. Biological differences should not be a reason for discrimination. The whole paradigm should change and social gender justice should be supported by laws to allow women to become successful and secure a foothold in business life.
  17. The Ministry of Family, Labour and Social Services gives priority to women by way of training in information and communication technologies in order to promote women entrepreneurship and women employment and to engage women in the economy. More STEM training courses should be offered in order to improve the digital technology skills of women. KOSGEB (Small and Medium Enterprises Development Organization) has supported more women entrepreneurs in recent times. The government, which adapts the digital world to real life to prevent violence, in addition to economic subsidies, now sends help to women in emergency cases – within five minutes – via the Women Support System Mobile Application (KADES), which is now available.
  18. Digital channels offer significant advantages such as foreign language learning. In an environment where content is supervised ethically and pedagogically, digital channels may be used as a means to allow children and young people to learn faster and create their own content.
  19. New skills need to be developed in the field of digital teaching. The use of body language and gestures, methods for making use of humour, and digital content enhance the involvement of students in the teaching process and the academic performance.
  20. Curiosity and science are intertwined concepts. Children should be allowed to enhance their creativity through motivation, experience what they are curious about, and make mistakes to ease the pressure on them. Intriguing questions, philosophical inquiries and natural observations should support education, and technology should not be excluded from the equation.
  21. The type of data which is called “metadata,” and is defined as “data about data,” was first used and generated along with digitalization. Metadata is considered a novelty that gives rise to data inflation, which blunts man’s ability to analyse. It is highly important for digital users to answer the question of why a text has been transferred to the digital environment and for what purpose.
  22. In particular, at an academic level, online education is more effective when students are directed to correct content and sources. Young people enjoy teaching models in which they can follow courses at any place and time, select content and lecturers, and self-schedule their learning process. Digital education content that suits this model should be pursued.
  23. Data transfer by means of the traditional master-apprentice method is more effective and stimulating compared to a general musical teaching program. When education models in music are determined, this distinction should be heeded; but if this is not possible, then the digital environment may be a prolific place for musical education. Even if you do not have the resources to give a musical instrument to every child, each student with access to a tablet or computer will have the chance to experience a virtual instrument. Considering the fact that classroom teachers also lecture in music courses, digital content will also increase the efficacy of teachers. The current education model should be reconfigured so that digitalization creates the effects of reform.
  24. Physical education has highly important characteristics for education, such as social interaction that goes hand-in-hand with data transfer, peer cooperation, context exchange, learning by way of inquiry, class discussion and conflict resolution, while online education – which falls short of these advantages – is more effective in enhancing knowledge, language education, coding, etc. The transition from physical to online environments will also change what is important in education.
  25. It would not be right to refer to distractibility as a consequence of digital education. Certain arguments offered by some neuroscientists (“the brains of young people have undergone a post-technology change; we cannot expect them to read books or discuss complex concepts”) raise barriers to intellectual knowledge, pull down education standards, and prevent us from understanding the capacity of young people. The problem does not lie with online education, but in the fact that online education does not arouse interest, nor is it stimulating. The solution is to restructure content in conformity with digital platforms.
  26. Human studies done with artificial intelligence show that man will share this world in the future with “human-like creatures” created by it by modifying its own kind. It is now essential to ask certain moral questions and think about their consequences in the face of such a theory: “Who will control these human-like creatures and for what purpose?”, “Who will decide why human-like creatures are created?”, “Will these creatures be allowed to use data uploaded to them freely and develop a sense of morality?”, “By which values will they be raised?”, and “What will be the legal context?” Answers should be sought to these questions on a broad zone of conciliation and expectations should be discussed on the philosophical, ethical and legal level.
  27. Tribalised nations and colonist states are as old as the history of humankind. However, in today’s cyber age, the scale of colonialism is much bigger and more threatening. In the digital era, the effects of colonialism have penetrated into deeper zones and have categorized societies. We cannot solve anything unless we accept that humans are equal. In this age, it is necessary to voice moral issues, discuss them in a philosophical context, and find solutions that favour humans.
  28. This world, which we call the Internet of Things, is refreshed and renovated every day. There is a world against us, which collects and stores and presents all data to humanity. Everything in our life interacts with the digital. That’s the reason why data needs to be collected in a controlled and secure environment to create specific systems for the confidentiality of private data. We can solve the chaos in different ecosystems in connection with data and artificial intelligence only by defining standards. Interdisciplinary studies should be used to set principles for artificial intelligence, the Internet of Things, and “Big Data,” and investments should be made in key technologies while international standards are introduced in terms of data privacy and data protection.
  29. We need to filter the data that we come across in the digital world through logic. Making use of reliable sources will make this easier for us. Human rights necessitate that data should be of sound quality and reliable in all areas, such as medicine, services, healthcare and diet. What makes data “Big” is not the data itself but the context in which it is used. For this reason, we should elevate the context rather than the data.
  30. Along with digitalization, financial technologies (fintech) have also developed. The remote signing of contracts, remote customer acquisition and similar concepts have come to the fore, and cyber-security has turned out to be a critical issue. Those companies that effectively use this technology advance in the industry. The number of bank branches is decreasing. Both companies and customers have started to favour mobile banking systems. Turkey has achieved transformation in many technological areas in line with its nationalization strategy. The point that should not be ignored here is to constantly update user data and equipment for security purposes.
  31. In parallel with digitalization, “media piety” and new religious movements have become more widespread. Religious data has become a kind of data that individuals may adapt to themselves and promulgate without any criteria whatsoever. Beliefs, knowledge, values and symbols that religions consider holy may be a matter of criticism in a virtual environment by non-religious communities. The same religion produces different discourses, and they start to conflict with each other. Answers to the following questions – and similar ones – should be diligently sought: “What are the effects of digital developments on religion?” and “How will religion react to technology?”
  32. Personal opinions and virtual interest are dominant in the digital world, and religious arguments are now relative. People also research religious matters in the technological world, and seek online answers to their questions. Today, there are search requests to translate the Koran, religious texts and calls to prayer, as well as applications that help find the Kiblah or pray on Fridays. There are even websites where fatwas are issued by artificial intelligence.
  33. Islamophobia is gaining more and more advocates as an ideology. This ideology contains instruments, discourses and destructive power, such as disinformation. Advocates of Islamophobia can be found in the media, academic circles, and politics. Anti-Islam discourse is put into circulation by way of mass communication and deeply-rooted mechanisms. The hostile approach to Islam should be considered from the point of view of secular paradigms, which currently dominate global discourse. The Muslim is the “other” for the West, which takes secularism as its reference point. Turkey needs to forge its own media tools and discourse, so that Muslims become the protagonists in the narrative as they suffer every possible condition.

These ideas are respectfully proposed for the consideration of the wider public. Thank you.