Perfect is not enough

Newly widowed Martha acquires an android of her passed away boyfriend in an episode of the show, Black Mirror. Its body is a meticulous reconstruction of her former boyfriend, its conversational responses are perfectly logical, its skills in bed are exceptional. The life-like robot is an optimized version of her passed away boyfriend.

With the rise of artificial intelligence, we will have the ability to produce “flawless” creations in any creative field. We will forfeit creative agency and increasingly rely on optimized AI-generated solutions. This capacity will in many ways serve us well. We will be able to construct buildings that effortlessly comply with building codes and regulations, build software with flawless strings of code, engineer drivetrains that handle traffic like superhumans. “Back end” applications like these, welcome optimization — and AI is a powerful tool to achieve just that. But, there are also “front end” applications: the building facade, the website interface, the car body. This is a dimension with a different set of parameters. A dimension where the genuine and the unconventional matters more. These are qualities that elude measurement and optimization.

Martha’s android — despite its polished specifications — quickly started to bore and irritate her. The shortcomings and “imperfections” of her boyfriend was part of what gave him character and made him relatable. Our products, spaces and services of tomorrow run the risk of becoming similarly bland and overly rational if we rely too heavily on the algorithms of AI. In order to attract, surprise and delight, the human (imperfect) touch will be as important as ever.