Hi vs Ai – Human intelligence versus AI, design automation and machine learning

Posted by assa

I was Invited to join the debate at the Foundry, the cool design and CGI software house to write about some of my design thinking and workflows.
See the post at the foundry blog

Here is the uncut version:

I would like to thank The Foundry for inviting me to join the conversation around ‘creativity vs automation’.

This topic is at the centre of my research. I feel as if automation is almost equal to freedom.

It frees us from certain elements that can be done in a better, faster way. It is also a form of magic; we look at an automated process and we get a sense of pleasure, a sense of achievement.

It mimics human behaviours and sometimes replaces human skills. As we step into an era of complex social hierarchies, it is our responsibility to design technologies and mechanisms that unlock and enhance human capacities rather than merely replacing them.

We are designing all sorts of automated processes within our digital design and co design workflows. Below I hope to illustrate some principles that guide us in that process.


Tool-making is a human instinct

We are very busy with improving our tools, a bit like the shoemaker who is always thinking about improving his working bench and sharpening his blade. Or perhaps the hunter, going out hunting and the trapper designing his trap mechanics, planning and speculating.


Repetition can be automated

When you are repeatedly designing and producing things, you start identifying elements with shared identities. Patterns, behaviours and elements that repeat themselves are maybe the first opportunity for automation in design.


Need for automated sense of materiality

Working with 3D virtual workflows, we need a sense of physicality and scale. Designing objects on a flat screen without any real life sense of load and materiality, we often struggle to perceive the true nature, durability and characteristics of the virtual object. This is another domain that needs some form of automation that can be in turn efficiently associated with human decision making and judgment mechanisms.


Signs, symbols and applied beauty

Designing, shaping and sculpting are perhaps the most advanced forms of human visual expression. A bit like sketching, these are strokes of intuitive imagination. We are consumers of forms and functions, therefore designing for usability and are experts in the application of perceptual signs and symbols that makes an object readable, projecting its nature and functions.

Aesthetics is the joy in perception. We are controlling the outlines and contours of a surface by manually conforming, restraining and enhancing its continuity and flow. These are challenging tasks to automate as we design the object perceptual system, symbolic impact and aesthetic value.


Technology to unlock and amplify human capacity

We are the consumers at the end of this industrial cycle. We design and manufacture objects for a better life, sustainability, survival but also comfort and beauty. It is clearly about efficiency, energy reduction, and better use of resources, while keeping people working and happy. As industrial designers, we have the responsibility to innovate inclusively. AI, machine learning and automated digital processes will replace some of the existing human professions in the near future, and while this is a natural progress, is seems that there is a great opportunity to design technologies that will intelligently unlock and amplify human way of doing things instead of merely replacing them.

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