Designers Need to Embrace Artificial Intelligence But Do So Responsibly, Experts Say

Fortune Brainstorm Design 2018
030 Fortune Brainstorm Design 2018 Wednesday, March 7th, 2018 Singapore 15:50 - 16:15 NOW TO NEXT: DESIGN IN THE AGE OF AI Artificial intelligence permeates all aspects of our lives—from how we work to how we shop, eat, and even sleep. What AI-driven tools are already disrupting the field of design and how can business leaders keep pace with rapidly evolving technologies? Rod Farmer, Digital Expert Associate Principal, McKinsey & Company Silka Miesnieks, Head of Design Lab, Adobe Interviewer: Brian O’Keefe, Fortune Photograph by Stefen Chow/Fortune
Stefen Chow/Fortune

Any mention of Artificial Intelligence, or AI, inspires some trepidation in many people, including designers, but those most familiar with it say that designers should be excited about the advent of AI.

“I’m very excited about the future with AI, but we do need to make sure we are responsible with it, as with any other technological development,’’ Silka Miesnieks, head of the design lab at Adobe, told the Brainstorm Design conference in Singapore on Wednesday.

“Our superpower as humans is our creativity, and we are all creative,” she said, adding that AI can aid human creativity but not replace it.

“We spend a lot of time thinking about unintended consequences and trying to avoid them. And we urge all designers to do that too,” she said.

Rod Farmer leads organizational transformation by design for McKinsey & Company. As digital expert associate partner, he helps clients bridge the worlds between design, digital, and business impact. He took a similar view to Miesnieks.

“In most cases, AI only affects a percentage of a job a person does, but rarely the whole job. And if you free up workers to do more of the creative and other work they are good at, while leaving other tasks for AI, you can grow your organization.”

“As designers, you don’t want to automate a bad process. You want to design a better process and then see how much that can be automated. So designers will have a key role in the process of automation,’’ Farmer said.

Miesnieks is meanwhile fascinated by what will happen when virtual reality, augmented reality and other forms of AI break away from the confines of computer screens and the whole world becomes digitally interactive.

“Where are you happiest,’’ Miesnieks asked the audience. “At the beach? Someplace in nature? Is your phone or computer or screen there? No. After a few days you will want to pick up your phone, but it’s not the phone, it’s the information you want. So I would like to think about the future where we could take technologies powered by AI and design a future that is more natural so we are more in our natural place when we are creating.”

Farmer said there are 8 billion smartphones it the world, but 40 billion sensors or so-called Internet of Things (IoT) devices. So AI is definitely a growing trend that is becoming more important.

He said said that McKinsey’s clients are increasingly looking for counsel on AI. They are taking it seriously. It will surpass any other form of digital interaction, and so companies want to know how to monetize it.

It will also create more need for designers that specialize in AI fields such as voice recognition, image recognition and artificial reality. So the opportunities for designers are growing and are real. And there is nothing artificial about that.

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