Over spring break, I sought to understand machine learning and artificial intelligence. Chatbots like ChatGPT and Bard have been the buzz in the past few months, and I want to know what it means for design and the world. I’m embarrassed that I’m late to the game. Check out Helen Armstrongs’s Big Data Big Design for some of the earliest designers to ask these questions). Better late than never, eh?
I gobbled up all I could learn (in a week) about GPT-4, DALL-E, Adobe Firefly, Runway’s Gen-2, and other generative A.I. tools. It was timely that John Maeda’s released his Design in Tech report at SXSW just a few days before my deep dive—his report title? “Design and Artificial Intelligence.” I’ll offer a few thoughts that emerged.
Those who command language control the world. People can generate a video, image, or written passage by dictating what they want to a generative A.I. technology. The quality of my results depends upon the quality of the input. We need to get better at speaking Machine.
The differentiation between “art” and “design” is getting clearer. When A.I. technologies can create images, websites, videos, and copywriting for us, there will be little need for Photoshop skills or drawing perfect illustrations when we design. Those who want to precisely craft outcomes can still do so (for the record, I enjoy the craft and creating!). When A.I. technologies can make outcomes as well as humans can, it will be hard to justify spending 12 hours on an illustration when I can have it in milliseconds.
Designers must become experts in humanity and humanness. This is John Maeda’s idea, and it’s brilliant. A.I. Technologies are not experts at being humans—humans are. So designers need to be experts at being human so we can make products, services, and systems with A.I. Technologies that match human needs, preferences, desires, etc.
What will we do with the jobs that are “lost”? In his book Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, Buckminster Fuller talked about a beautiful world in the future where machines would do repetitive tasks that damaged humans—freeing up time for people to do the things only they can do. He did not say what these “things” were or how people would get paid for them. I’m thinking about this.
More to come.