The Experimental Future

What is the future of product design using experimental technology from blockchain to voice commands, AI, and IoT?

This talk covers what the future of ethical product design can be? Why and when should we use blockchain, or AI, or IOT? What are design principals we should keep in mind for creating with new technology? Instead of building future worlds imagined in the ’60s during the Space Race, what is the future now, and how can we build it?

In the 50s and 60s, the future looked like the Jetsons. Cartoonish illustrations painted a world of mechanised home servants.

In the 80s and 90s the vision of the future became sci-fi dystopia. Think cyberpunk, Blade Runner, Akira. Everything became dark, gritty, cold and blue. While we might enjoy that as fiction, is it what we truly want?

But where are we now? Much of our current technology has gone a bit wrong, like in-home devices spontaneously laughing – very very creepy. Or the issues of sexist chatbots and AIs that almost immediately learn to be extreme-right racists. What future are we setting now?

Caroline’s dream is of a collaborative future.

What if we stopped making humanoid servants (with ML, AI, etc), and instead create machine agents that collaborate with us? Augmented intelligence, rather than artificial intelligence.

We should be skeptical about the ways people are using or planning to use data. We should expect products to be collecting the minimum amount of data they need to do what you want them to do.

IoT is creating a lot of data; and we need to think about the type of data it’s collecting and where it goes. There aren’t any widely accepted standards for IoT data or security.

What about IoT for good? There are networks that monitor floodwaters across communities. It collects very specific data that is very helpful. There are farming applications like monitors for livestock that track health and development of the animals.

So what about robots? As creepy as current robotics research is, we are going to use robots more in future. Not just impersonal machines for relatively industrial applications, but very personal things like robotic assistance animals.

Is it possible to use AI for good? For the public good and the civic good? How can we use AI for more than just predictions. What about applications where very dumb AI can be used, simple processing and monitoring. Can AI help with the by-products of humans, particularly in cities? Can AI help with things like sewage, rubbish, rats?

AI as a curatorial assistant. A system pairing photos produced the combination of a painting of a church; and a pile of guns. While a human may not have made the pairing because it’s so unlikely, the AI paid attention to direct similarities and not the context a human would have applied. Humans added the poetry and meaning of the paired images.

The future is gonna be weird

We need to stop rehashing the old visions of the future and create our own. We must critique where we are now, but what if we imagined warmer futures – where technology creates a better world and not a dark, blue dystopia. Let’s build what we can imagine.