In the early days of product design, the opportunity to influence the world was through tangible products, like toasters. Our role was to incrementally improve on, or ‘decorate’, the built world around us. It didn’t take long, though, for software to become the dominant focus in design innovation, with the mandate being to make software more useful and beautiful.
A shift happened while we were making beautiful things, one that turned out to be monumental — software embedded itself deeply into our everyday lives. It now determines our access to friendships, jobs, romantic relationships, financial success. Software, one could argue, has become the key access point to a successful life.
Artificial intelligence is changing the game yet again, turning over everything we thought we knew about how the world worked. Today most software consists of content originating from other humans, with computers aiding in the gathering and filtering of that information. The shift that AI brings about is twofold: it is making opaque decisions about which content pieces we see, and in many new situations, it is creating the very content itself.
Our job as designers is no longer simply an opportunity to make the world more beautiful, but also as a central actor in making sure it is trustworthy, fair, and accessible to everybody. The role of design is driving a whole-systems view of AI in order to thoroughly understand its impact. This work is very much needed. It’s a far cry from toasters.
You may have heard yesterday about the launch of a new organization, RAI, dedicated to the development of responsible AI systems. Chaired by Manoj Saxena — the ‘father’ of IBM Watson and Chairman of CognitiveScale — RAI is working to define responsible AI with practical tools and expert guidance. They are backing up that philosophy with the launch of the world’s first independent Responsible AI Certification system.
argo founder and Chief Creative Officer Mark Rolston serves as an advisor to RAI on emerging best practices related to the human interface of AI. Mark and his team understand that a great interface for AI is less about linear execution and more about a conversation.
argo played an integral role in shepherding RAI through the design process, helping to enlighten users on the complexity of AI and ultimately create trust in those systems. Our breadth of experience with all types of platform design has taught us the incredible power and value of design in the human-machine interface.
“At a superficial level, we want to create transparency about how these decisions are made. How do we expose its reasoning? The more sophisticated consideration is the role design has in helping make the authoring and auditing of AI more easy, accessible, and transparent.” ~Mark Rolston
You can’t design for this new world without finding yourself challenged by what technology is doing to the people you’re designing for. argo’s work with and support of RAI is one part of a larger initiative for us in the years ahead — making AI more transparent, more usable, and vastly less scary to everyday humans. It’s a prime opportunity to shape technology as we dream it to be, rather than something to fear. We should view this as a trough to cross instead of a mistake that needs undoing.
As practitioners and stakeholders, our choice is to build a future that either will — or will not — be trusted by everyone. It is our collective responsibility to advocate and engineer for the positive. This is one of the most valuable things a creative organization can be invited to do.