We’ve all heard the prophecy of how one day robots will take our jobs. The story paints a picture of a dystopian future where computers have rendered our existence meaningless, leaving humanity to suffer the effects of extreme boredom. The development will be gradual, with repetitive work disappearing first and more complex tasks soon to follow, until only the most creative of jobs remain within our realm of responsibility.
Despite having heard this a million times, we still like to believe that our own jobs are somehow immune. And as a digital product designer I certainly used to think the same way. My work requires creativity and social intelligence, which are two things computers lack. At least, that’s what I used to believe until I read up on AI.
There are two types of AI, namely weak AI and strong AI. Weak AI is an algorithm designed for a specific purpose. It is great at what it does, but pretty much useless outside of its app. Some examples are Siri, the Facebook feed, and Amazon’s suggested purchases.
Then there is strong AI, which is a form of machine intelligence with no specific purpose coded into it. Its algorithm learns by repeating random tasks and iterating on patterns. Kind of like we do as children, but at supercomputer speed. The best example of strong AI is Google’s DeepMind. Like a true renaissance machine it knows how to play board games, create art, and conduct scientific experiments. And it is this type of AI that will turn the world on its head.
Well, let’s take my field as an example. Most people will agree that good design requires a creative eye. Designing a product involves taking an idea and using our creativity and social intelligence to define a hypothesis. Based on this hypothesis we create some features, which we validate through analytics tools and interviews. We then test and iterate on our product until we come up with the best one-size-fits-all solution.
The quality of a product is determined by our understanding of the user’s psychology. The more data we have, and the better we are at processing it, the more effective our design.
Companies like Google and Facebook stockpile huge amounts of personal information. They know what you like, who you hang out with, and what type of music you listen to. They also map your behavior by tracking where you click, what your read, and how you react to certain content. All this information is used to create a more tailored and deliberate user experience.