PAIR: How might AI systems amplify the expertise of designers, doctors, technicians, farmers, musicians, and more?
PA: Amplify is the right verb, and I believe that AI can be helpful in any profession. In addition to amplifying, AI can also specify; it can augment, and it can specialize. I see AI as an extension of what humans can already do. However, AI can work faster, consider more complex systems, and evaluate many more variables.
If we're thinking of doctors, the fact that symptoms can be scanned and categorized according to precedents that are not in every doctor’s mind can help diagnose illnesses more efficiently and precisely.
If I reframe the question: “What profession could not be helped by AI?” I find it difficult to answer. Possibly a police person directing traffic? But actually, if traffic lights were all connected to an AI system, that would be instant assistance to this police person.
Consider a baker—maybe AI should not get into the bakery? Or maybe it is Italian wishful thinking, to believe that AI cannot have a palate? But who knows!
I cannot see any limitations. I see AI as (hopefully) a benign spice that can be sprinkled on any profession. I really don't see where it will not be used. I also believe that designers should always be alert and look out of unintended consequences and dangerous directions. There is already a major discussion happening on the checks and balances that must be put in AI’s way, on the ethics of it, on the rules and regulations that must be legislated, on the need to be conscious and aware of a new dimension that is added to human life. Designers can help tremendously, supporting other experts with their ability to envision scenarios and describe and guide human behaviors.
PAIR: ML and AI are abstract concepts. What role can artists and designers play in making them less abstract?
PA: I find it fascinating how artists and designers can take very abstract and scary concepts and make them banal and familiar. With respect to AI, I think that is how they can be most useful.
Artists and designers can show that AI is not a monster from outer space. Rather, AI is sometimes very simple. Although it may be internally complex, AI is simply a tool we can use to make things better.
AI is not Mary Poppins, not a fairy, and certainly not a monster. I would love it if designers and artists could show AI as a nice pet running through our lives and making things a little better.
For more on how to take a human-centered approach to designing with ML and AI, visit our collection of practical insights from Google's People AI + Research team.