Interview With an AI — Human Touch and Ethics

Female in heavy armor fighting back the unethical dark side of artificial intelligence

Still, I’m convinced that despite the rapid development of artificial intelligence, it brings more opportunities than threats for designers, the tech industry and beyond for all of us as human beings.

However, given all the new temptations, we should take care not to slide into doing ‘Schindluder’ which is a German word for malfeasance or being fraudulent.

Recently I had a chat with my a(i)lter ego from We covered a few topics: how AI can be a helper for designers, what designers will do in the future and how they can teach AI. We also discussed the ethical issues and the designers’ responsibility.

Opportunities, Threats and Our Responsibility as Designers

Asked: How are your expectations about the future of design with AI? What are the opportunities? What are risks? What is the responsibility of designers?

The main opportunity I see is that an AI-assistant could help designers to generate and to develop more ideas. I think that human designers will still be needed to judge which of the generated ideas makes most sense for the project and to bring their expertise into the design-process. But I also see a risk, that this technology could lead to a loss of human creativity on the long run, especially since many companies only care about profits, not about ethics. Therefore they might see this loss as a plus in order to have cheaper designers, but the lack of human empathy and creativity could also lead to less value for customers.

‘A loss of human creativity’. For the quick buck, it may be tempting to push the efficiency gains thing to the extreme. But I think that’s a short-term and limited strategy. In the long run, you need to keep human creativity and empathy alive. AI won’t catch up with that anytime soon.

The Human Touch — Empathy and Creativity

Asked: Exactly this I see as the challenge for designers and also the companies to obtain this: human empathy and creativity. What do you think, how long will AI need to develop more human skills? How can we as human beings assists and train AI?

I’m convinced that this is a matter of the development of more advanced algorithms, but it’s hard to make an accurate prediction. I’m already excited to see how the algorithms develop within only the next year. I’m sure it will be an interesting and challenging time to be a designer and to be a human being in general. I think the current AI-tech is like the invention of electricity. At first, electricity had to run its course until we understood its potential. This phase might also have to run for AI. I mean, we already see some impressive developments just within the last two years.

Dangerous Artificial Intelligence?

Asked: Electricity is a good example. But, pioneers are risk takers. Just like the invention and development of any mature and convenient technology, many people died while experimenting and implementing it. What are some of the threats that humans might face from AI in the near future?

I think the most obvious one is, that many humans might be rendered redundant once AI develops more. Especially within the field of design that could be challenging, since the main value of a design is given to it by other humans. This will be an interesting point to look out for, since designers often talk about using AI in the field of AI design as assistants for the human designers… But what if the human part becomes redundant? I think this might challenge the role of human designers in the long run, since the main value of their work could be lost.

Asked: Interesting aspects you’ve added here. But, you don’t see existential threats for humans in connection with AI?

Yes, that’s true! I think that there are definitely risks of weaponization. I’m especially thinking about autonomous weapons and the use of deep fake images in the context of disinformation campaigns. For example, the usage of a deep fake of a president or other authorities in order to change opinions (as seen in the last US elections). This might become an even greater threat in the future, as the quality of deep fakes is increasing rapidly, especially as the new generation of AI now is capable of video-generation instead of solely generation of still images.

At this point it got somehow overwhelming and scary when thinking about what else you could come up with. How will we designers, human beings ever be able to stay on the path of virtue amid all the temptations? Honestly I’ve got no idea yet. Which lead me to my next question.

Ethics in AI Design

Asked: What aspects of ethics, accessibility, privacy and security you see that have to be addressed first and quickly in connection with AI and design? Will it even be possible to keep up with the current and midterm pace of innovation in the field of AI?

I think the most critical aspects are the ethical aspects. We absolutely have to have a broad discussion about the ethical implications of current and upcoming AI. In this discussion, we, as UX professionals and designers, have to represent the point of view of the humans that our technology should still cater to and help. Therefore humanism has to be a major focus of our research and the development of future AI models and algorithms. In addition, I think other aspects like accessibility, privacy and security are crucial ones that we have to take into account, but ethics is the number one priority for me.

Asked: Ok, understood. So, considering ethics: on which aspects we as designers should focus now. And where do we start to teach AI to develop a stronger sense of human empathy and creativity?

There are a few different options that are currently being explored: one of them is to provide the AI with empathy-related text (books, stories, novels, articles, interviews, quotes) to learn from. An AI that is exposed to these kind of data can develop a sense of empathy for humans and might even develop a sense of humor. Another option could be to use a reward system to teach the AI empathy (e.g. by rewarding it with “smiles” when the AI behaves empathically). Another way is to use algorithms that are trained on different emotions of human faces to learn about the feelings of humans.


Conclusion and Directions

This is not the end, but a new beginning. AI is our faithful companion as we explore the wonders of design. Those who resist it will soon find out that it’s here to stay. I embrace it as a chance and I’m excited to see how my profession will keep evolving. Right now, it’s changing faster than ever before. The next chapter of my career will surely be full of surprises.

And yes, we will need to care more about the ethical side of our work. We will need to help AI understand how people feel and act. Our user-centric approach as UX designers is already a great prerequisite for creating artificial intelligence infused user experiences that work well.

Keep on thinking.

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