Human-Centered AI – the impact on design

Pontus Wärnestål

Pontus Wärnestål guides you through the neural networks, the interaction models, the challenges and possibilities with AI.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has demonstrated enormous potential for creating value and a better future for humanity. AI techniques are being used in a wide range of systems and services, such as in healthcare, where it can assist in surgery, drug creation, X-ray analysis, and patient tracking. In automotive, AI is the foundation for self-driving cars, but also in optimizing logistics, transport, and mobility. In the personal space, Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant are examples of ubiquitous AI-powered technology. And the list goes on: AI is found in media, finance, insurance, security, retail, and customer service just to name a few sectors.

But as with all technology, it has also shown a darker side – that of unintentional negative impact on individuals, organizations, and society itself. Algorithms that make decisions based on biased data can put entire populations at a disadvantage, and there are many other ethical aspects of using AI in our societies that need thorough investigation.

Our goal is to design and ship AI solutions that are fair, reliable, inclusive, transparent, and accountable. And this means that it has to start with the human front and center. AI technology should be used to enhance and augment human potential. This is what Human-Centered AI is about.

In one sense, this is not new at all. Human-centered design has always been about positive human experience and meaningful and valuable impact. And the methodologies and approaches we use to design have gracefully transitioned from text-based interfaces to graphical user interfaces, from stationary computers to mobile phones, from stand-alone machines to internet-based clients, etc. But it has so far always been about assistive technology and tools. The potential of AI technologies make possible new kinds of services – systems that act on our behalf, and take their own initiative. In short, we are transitioning from designing tools to designing partners. And suddenly, a whole new set of challenges surface – challenges that our traditional design approaches are not optimized for in a number of ways:

New Interaction Models

The fundamental input-process-output cycle of interactive tools has been modified, and AI-enabled agents take more or less their own initiative and operate more like thoughtful butlers or partners, so that us humans can focus on other things. Designing agents with its own agency and initiative is different than designing moment-to-moment tools. This sort of behavior requires a whole new level of trust-building transparency and accountability, for example.

Augmenting Human Intelligence

In addition, AI-enabled services may become almost entirely ubiquitous and invisible – merely augmenting human activity behind the scenes. No visible interface, no screens, no direct manipulation. Instead, our profoundly human everyday activities and cognitive abilities are seamlessly and automatically boosted.

Adaptation and Inclusiveness

Furthermore, personalization and adaptation will play an even greater role in the design and implementation of human-centered AI. A learning agent can, if well-designed, adapt to the different needs, skills, and abilities of individual users. This implies a longer relationship between humans and AI agents. Maybe even life-long relationships will form? It also puts the finger on the potential of an even higher degree of inclusive design for all.

And finally, in the wake of more advanced and accessible sensors, AI-enabled services will spread to – and affect – the core infrastructure of our world. IoT services, energy grids, mobility, and physical spaces will all be affected by ubiquitous AI-powered systems that act on their own to a larger degree.

The Road Ahead

The success of AI-enabled services and products depends on our ability to design for positive human impact. At inUse, we have always committed to designing human-centered products and services – using the best tools and materials for the job. And now, with the advent of robust machine learning platforms, large data sets, viable sensor technology, and data distribution platforms and cloud infrastructures, ”AI” is rapidly becoming a powerful addition to the available options for designers.

And this requires us to think differently and carefully about the design process, methods, interaction patterns, and the various impact these new types of AI-enabled services can provide. We know from history that we have a tendency to overestimate the effects of new technology in the short run, and underestimate them in the long run. AI is currently surrounded with a lot of hype, and when the dust has settled we will probably face some disappointment in the coming months and even years. But in the long run, AI will profoundly affect infrastructure, jobs, and the fabric of society itself. Exactly how, no-one can tell. But we are committed to carefully study, explore, and design human-centered AI-enabled services together with industry, government, and academia in order to provide thoughtful positive societal impact. We hope you want to join us!

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