AI + People Research

Chapter 1:   AI for Creatives

commisioned by NID / 2019
in collaboration with Yatharth

As a part of Critters Collective, one of my and a fellow group member Yatharth’s interest areas is Humaneness of Tech research. The first inquiry in this was

How might we get people to understand tech as a tool, and not as a monster which will one day rule the world?

The Why
In the exponential growth of technology over the last few decades, we thought it important for creative problem solvers to be acquainted with AI and Machine Learning not only as advanced technology, but also as tools that could help creatives deliver better.

The aim was to dispel preconceived notions of AIML and normalize it by addressing the anxieties, fears, and fantasies that people fostered about the topic.  That meant giving a reality check and replacing the mental image of The Terminator (frequently visualized as AI) with a realistic and experiential lesson in Human Learning and Machine Learning.

This was conducted by performing experiments where the participants were asked to design a chair and provided elementary AIML tools to assist them through the task. The participants were to experience for themselves the realistic capacity and potential of the tool. Through hands on experience, it was easy for the participants to identify the strengths and weaknesses of AIML, and the same as that of the designer (in this case the participants themselves), and the potential the tool holds to augment the designers skills.

A personal driver for us in designing this workshop was to inquire for ourselves the role of a creative individual in the present time of AIML advancement and sophistication. Our own curiosities have been nudging us to inquire in this direction, and we wanted to understand the public response to questions like:

How would the advent of AIML affect the role of a designer over time?

What are the unique sensibilities that a creative and their machine counterparts brings to the design process?

Which abilities might creatives have to identify and hone in order to work in tandem with the machine?

What exactly is creativity and how much of it has to do with humanness and originality?

Takeaways from the workshop

The core learning from the workshop for us as inquirers of AI in Design, was profound yet extremely simple. We found that once given a chance to collaborate with ML, people begin to reflect and inquire about the ethics of AI themselves. They begin asking questions of truth, authenticity, and empathy- all of which would not have been possible had the mind not been informed by hands-on experience.

The reflective discussions with all the participants at the end of the workshop paved way for a constructive critical conversation on AIML. We discussed how prehistoric humans developed tools to assist them, but with the passage of time, tools have caused humans to evolve, and in the process, have evolved themselves. It was well established that there was an urgent need for everyone, creatives and beyond, to learn more about AIML.
The session ended on an introspective note:

What is our relationship with our own creations, the present day super advanced tools?

More information on the project can be found here

made by Harshali Paralikar ©2020

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