Is it possible to design services in the age of Artificial Intelligence?
I always have been skeptical about AI. There are several aspects of AI that I find troublesome and below I will lay them out as succinct as I possibly can.
First of all, what is intelligence and why would we be so interested in that? There are enough examples of intelligent people making bad decisions. Take for example Theodore (Ted) Kaczynski also known as the UNAbomber. He has been measured or estimated to have an IQ of 150 or more 1, which is frighteningly high in my point of view. But he ended up blowing up and maiming people in order to get attention to his thinking.
People with undoubtedly high IQ developing weapons of mass destruction whether chemical weapons, bio weapons or nuclear weapons. Having this said, a blunt sword is not any better I suppose. With a little bit of clear thinking you can deduct that both high IQ and low IQ are not a guarantee for doing good things in this world. Good is a highly subjective value statement I am aware but let’s gather some examples that make sense to me:
What goes around comes around
Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them: for this is the law and the prophets.2
An’ it harm none, do what ye will 3
As with most things in life there are many sides to a story. This does not mean one is true and the other is false but rather it means that no one perspective is fully complete. Do not confuse this with subjectivity as that is a totally different theory.
Secondly, the other aspect in Artificial Intelligence is the “artificial” part. In general terms I would say that artificial means created by man or by machine as a proxy of man’s creation. Artificial could also be viewed as the antonym of natural. For a long time the trend within the AI community was to use the brain as the example onto which AI should be based. As we know so little about the brain still this was doomed to fail.
If we could simulate the workings of the brain inside a computed environment we would be able to create AI. That seem so far to be a dead end even though I think there is some merit to some aspect of this way of thinking. This if one begins to understand the brain also as a receiver, modulator and filter of sorts rather than only a creator4. If the brain could be also considered to be receiver, from where is the data that is being received is coming from?
Is it merely bodily data such as from the stomach lining or heart? If so what is the news here? We do know that there is a non-stop exchange of data going on between the brain and the body. But what if data also comes from outside the body? Rupert Shelldrake has done several studies on telepathy and data receiving us from outside the body 5 and the results suggest very strongly that this is indeed one of the channels through which the brain receives data.
A more recent trend in AI is that to consider it as an evolving system based on a rule set and starting parameters. Of course as with any good science there are flavours and variations of the above but for the sake of some brevity I keep it overly simplified.
If this all combined is close to our current reality, what could this mean for AI? Is AI something that is created by us humans, and then what? Does it run it’s course and develop it’s own thinking? Could all be very well possible. To what extend would the initial code or algorithms determine the quality of the AI? Should we set ground rules such as do not do to other what you do not want to be done to yourself?
What would be the point to that if the AI is spread across networks and has no single body to be worried about nor understands the concept of fear, belief, doubt and all those human traits. Thus what would AI add to our life or does it add something to start with? Would there be competing AIs and if so, what would they compete for? Dominance over resources like we humans tend to do?
To me it is clear that AI is a part of our current time and our future. It is us humans who, still, shape the AI debate and development. It is also us humans with high IQ who use our smartness to create something utterly destructive. If we leave the destructive future aside and focus on the benevolent AI, what future do we see?
What is the role of a service designer like myself in a future where something smarter, faster, more accurate is in control of networks and communication? Do we need to design services or would AI take care of this? How would it know what we actually want? Based on Facebook posts perhaps? Based on likes we give and receive 6. This would be an interesting future at least. The dating site OKcupid.com has also done fascinating research on what people write they want and actually choose. An article on their site dating back to 20147 gives a good impression of the breadth and width of their data.
So if AI scavenges through social media sites to find the real us, what will it find? Will it find who we like to be or will it find who we afraid to show we are? Will AI determine in a large way how we are perceived? Where do we stand as humans in all this? And do we think that AI means “neutral” or “objective”? These are troublesome terms by themselves already but often used to wipe away concerns about biased algorithms as laid out in the book “Weapons of Math Destruction”8.
Should we consider AI as a friend or foe? If foe, how will we interact and communicate with one another in the future? If more of our online representation is nudged by AI (or worse) do we need alternative means to interact? At this moment in time I cannot see how this can be achieved as much of the AI research and development is done by those corporations who already have a strong foothold in our Internet.
And what if those AIs begin to compete? How would that be? So many questions and so many opportunities. But we need to think about this…