Artificial Intelligence has been around for a long time and smart devices, self-driving cars, and even robots are now quickly becoming part of our everyday environment. This has a profound effect on how we approach the design of new products and services. Implications go far beyond reimagining how we communicate with technology, raising questions about ethics of AI-powered decisions or about the meaning of human labour.

The Service Design Global Conference that took place in October 2018 in Dublin fully embraced this new reality and offered a distinct service design perspective to this fascinating topic.

Designing for AI is designing for trust

A need for designers to rethink their role in a world of smart services and artificial intelligence was outlined by Lorna Ross from Fjord in the very first keynote of the conference. Designing for AI will shift the focus from making technology that humans can easily understand to making technology that can understand humans. This subtle shift will bring new challenges for designers such as issues related to trust, privacy, truth, security or identity. In an artificially intelligent world humans can no longer be fully in control of every interaction. It is essential that these new services are designed in a way that reassures users and enables them to trust decisions made by intelligent algorithms.

TTC Labs, initiated by Facebook, offers a handy toolkit with interaction patterns that make it easier to design new data-driven digital services.

Services that see, read, hear, connect, predict, and touch How do you design for trust when services can see, read, hear, connect, predict and touch?

AI inspires a range of new toolkits, approaches, and ethical considerations

Wanting to find out more about what other designers are doing with AI, I decided to join two workshops. Both introduced new toolkits designed specifically for innovation of services infused with artificial intelligence. In each case we were asked to design a service that included new interactions augmented by intelligent components. I found sets of cards that represent possible and channels and use cases for AI very helpful as they guided the thinking in the group in directions that we would not have thought of otherwise.

Ethical questions raised by AI were emphasised in both workshops. Facilitators invited us to consider possible biases in decisions made by intelligent systems as well as wider societal implications. What happens if there is a security breach? Can we prevent autonomous intelligent systems from making undesirable decisions? What about information bubbles? Our society is already heavily influenced by information flows controlled by AI (e.g. social media feeds) and service designers could take a more active role in mitigating potential negative effects of intelligent services in the future.

You can download the Intelligence Augmentation Design Toolkit yourself and give it a try.

Intelligence Augmentation Design Toolkit Intelligence Augmentation Design Toolkit in action.

AI can enhance human potential

While there are possible negative effects and important ethical considerations related to the rise of AI, Stefan Moritz reminded everyone of its incredible potential to improve our lives. It should be easy to see the benefits of having robots do the work for us, as long as services are designed primarily around humans rather than around technological possibilities. We need to shift the focus from digitisation to humanisation of services. We can use AI to design services that are built with an understanding of what matters to people. Services that connect rather than divide, and that provide us with space to learn, grow, and fulfil our potential.

In order to humanise services, we will require a shift in how organisations approach innovation. As Lorna Ross put it in her opening keynote: “Generally, organisations put a lot of energy into exploring the future of technology and very little into exploring the future of humans.” Service designers can turn this around and use artificial intelligence to design a better future for humans.

The robots are already here The robots are already here.

Related talks and workshops:
Lorna Ross, Fjord: New kids on the block: How technology is reshaping design and rewiring designers.
Dan Hayden, TTC Labs: Designing for Data: Lessons from global sprints.
Stefan Moritz, Veryday: Four Principles for Humanising the Future of Work.
Daryl Weir and Annina Antiranta, Futurice: Intelligence Augmentation – Machine Learning for everyone.
Titta Jylkäs and Richard Ekelman: Artificial Intelligence in Service Design.