Every code is a block inside the digital world; every single line of an algorithm is a part of this world in which we all spend time whether working, shopping, chilling, playing or even dating.
Unlike assembly lines, pasta recipes or setting up a small tent, code is hard to understand, especially because most of the time it is hidden behind the most obvious hardware such as a microwave panel or your Nespresso coffee machine. The majority of people cannot notice that the software is there somewhere.
However, due to the high demand of software engineers worldwide combined with the crisis in other industries, programming is being democratised. People are now seeing a career in tech as an opportunity to be always in demand – hence all of the short coding courses, several online training websites and the appearance of coding communities and applications since the launch of the graphical user interface (GUI) by Xerox. All of these factors are helping us to tame this beast we call a computer.
With the establishment of tech democratisation, we will see more and more lawyers, doctors, accountants, and all kinds of people learning to code in order to automate daily tasks and build their personal apps.
In parallel, the application of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) is exponentially increasing. AI relies on patterns and inference instead of explicit instructions, differently from regular algorithms that work by following rules. What this means is that after receiving countless inputs and examples, the machine will build a classification system and take conclusions by itself.
Although AI is not fundamentally biased, in many ways, we are. A human being created every app there is; we have been building a new world through intuitive tools, so we need to make sure that this world will be better and fairer than our current society. The way to do that is by guaranteeing that AI algorithms are given examples so that the neural networks they create will perpetuate good values.
In the near future, business, medical, political and social decisions will be based almost entirely on AI recommendations, so we have to be judicious in our approach and remain vigilant to keep bias out of the AI systems because they are not going to be great by themselves.
The Neon – Samsung’s latest project – was just launched during this year’s CES. Neon is an avatar that looks and behave like a human with the ability to show emotions and intelligence; they are calling it “artificial humans”. When AI is applied in ambitious projects like Neon, it means that very soon we will have hotel concierges, yoga teachers, soldiers and news anchors that are actually machines. It’s not speculation anymore, it is a fact that we already have robots around and we are going to have many more, and, if they will look and behave like humans, I want to make sure that they are kind, respectful and free of biases, don’t you?
Samsung’s NEON artificial humans
I feel like we are in genesis, at the first chapter, the creation, and there is a huge opportunity to shape the future machines in a way that they won’t repeat the mistakes we made.
It’s our responsibility – especially the ‘tech giants’ – to avoid the reinforcement of biases and guarantee that machines are free of sexism, racism, misogyny, prejudice and all the ‘evil’ human characteristics which can cause devastating consequences.
Who should be in the design room? Professionals who are prepared to approach the problems based on ethical principles and society’s core values. People who look to the future through well-intentioned lenses, who are aware of society’s shortcomings and that care about them. Technology is not just a cool app or a new disruptive platform; it is also a game-changer for human race and democracies. If we are at the genesis, shouldn’t we avoid programming serpents and forbidden fruits?
At Echos, we believe that the future cannot be built only on predictions, but that it has to be built intentionally and collaboratively. Designers of the future should create the places where we will be in 5, 10, 25 or 50 years.
It is through this accurate and thorough approach that we provoke alternatives to exercise wanted – and avoid unwanted – outcomes for the future to design a reality that is desirable, inclusive and strategic for corporations, government bodies, small businesses and civil society.
Would you like to be in the design room? Would you rather predict or design the future? Visit Echos’ Designing Desirable Futures course page to find out more.
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