In a captivating memoir, an Egyptian American visionary and scientist provides an intimate view of her personal transformation as she follows her calling-to humanize our technology and how we connect with one another.
"A vivid coming-of-age story and a call to each of us to be more mindful and compassionate when we interact online."-Arianna Huffington
Rana el Kaliouby is a rarity in both the tech world and her native Middle East: a Muslim woman in charge in a field that is still overwhelmingly white and male. Growing up in Egypt and Kuwait, el Kaliouby was raised by a strict father who valued tradition-yet also had high expectations for his daughters-and a mother who was one of the first female computer programmers in the Middle East. Even before el Kaliouby broke ground as a scientist, she broke the rules of what it meant to be an obedient daughter and, later, an obedient wife to pursue her own daring dream.
After earning her PhD at Cambridge, el Kaliouby, now the divorced mother of two, moved to America to pursue her mission to humanize technology before it dehumanizes us. The majority of our communication is conveyed through nonverbal cues: facial expressions, tone of voice, body language. But that communication is lost when we interact with others through our smartphones and devices. The result is an emotion-blind digital universe that impairs the very intelligence and capabilities-including empathy-that distinguish human beings from our machines.
To combat our fundamental loss of emotional intelligence online, she cofounded Affectiva, the pioneer in the new field of Emotion AI, allowing our technology to understand humans the way we understand one another. Girl Decoded chronicles el Kaliouby's journey from being a "nice Egyptian girl" to becoming a woman, carving her own path as she revolutionizes technology. But decoding herself-learning to express and act on her own emotions-would prove to be the biggest challenge of all.
Rana el Kaliouby is a pioneer in artificial emotional intelligence (Emotion AI), as well as the cofounder and CEO of Affectiva, the acclaimed AI startup spun off from the MIT Media Lab. She grew up in Kuwait and in Cairo, Egypt, among a family of technologists and educators. After earning an undergraduate and a master's degree in computer science at the American University in Cairo, she attended Cambridge University, where she earned her PhD. Afterward, she joined the MIT Media Lab as a research scientist, where she spearheaded the applications of emotion recognition technology in a variety of fields, including mental health and autism research. She left MIT to cofound Affectiva, the company credited with defining the field of Emotion AI. Affectiva's technology is used by more than a quarter of the companies in the Fortune Global 500. An acclaimed TED speaker, el Kaliouby was named by Forbes to their list of America's Top 50 Women in Tech, and Fortune included her in their list of 40 Under 40. In 2018 she was the cohost of a PBS Nova series on AI.