Design future decisions for humanity. (1)

Design thinking and its movement define humans as the center of its creation and build methods around them. Our design actions and outcomes should increase productivity, reduce discomfort and stress, increase accessibility or improve the experience. We do everything to improve human’s lives.

What seems to work among product and service design is also approachable in the field of business. Business needs to focus on human needs to secure existence in the future. At least that’s our belief and the tenor — today. But by reading tons of articles about the rise of disrupting technologies such as AR/VR, Blockchain and especially AI we question where humanity (human-centred design) is going next. And if interactions between things and systems become equal to human interactions.

After injecting the art of design thinking into the field of business, we now should address the field of technology — with the same importance which tech already has in our daily life. Future technology will have a deep impact of how we live and shape our design process. Will we start to use technology as a design tool? Maybe, but we are not there yet.

Today, businesses pursue meeting human demands. Design follows human behaviour and technology enables solutions, which serve individuals and society. Throughout each process of creating, making and doing, we ask for the right design decisions and base our answers on instinct, empathy, ethics, moral, science, experience or history. The future may look different. In yesterday’s physical world, digitalization emerged with high speed and its own language, behaviours, rules and algorithms. It seems that technology won’t just be a tool for design. It’s rather going to be a new dimension without history, feelings, beliefs or dreams — based on codes. (2)

More and more we explore the possibilities by merging this coded world with our physical space, while at the same time a lot of new questions arise. What will be the subject we are designing for in the future if for example AI delivers what technology enthusiasts promise? Will we soon design for machines instead of humans? Or wouldn’t we even draw a line between human and tech? If so, on what will we base our future decision-making process? It’s questionable if we are able to apply ethics, moral and norms which strongly depend on societies and human behaviour to a digital non-emotional dimension. (3)

But if we want put humans first (respectively design technology for humans, and not the other way around) we should make sure creators of the digital world use a human-centered approach, start creating codes with <ethics> and fill them with moral. (4)

Comments added by Aaron Scheer, M.Sc. Business & Design — University of Gothenburg:

  1. The title: “Design future decisions for humanity”. Can we really design future decisions? Consider this: one of the main principles of contemporary design is to empower people. Or in other, simpler words, to enable them to live a better life. But is making decisions for people really part of this? I would argue it’s rather the other way around. I would argue it’s rather to enable people, to give them the tools, to make their own informed decisions. And that is also my critique towards algorithms. Algorithms, or advanced technology in general, tend to take away decisions from us. And that can be very powerful, as it can potentially eases our lives. But, it also means that we’re giving up freedom. And plus, it is a question of who is owning those algorithms (and collected data). And that is not us. That is the corporate world. The door towards manipulation is wide open. Sorry for the long comment, couldn’t help it, haha.
  2. Is that really the case? Isn’t it rather that algorithms are based on collected human data, and therefore ultimately based, or at least rooted, on human needs? If you think about it, the first generation of algorithms is a quantitative result of human behaviour. At the same time, it is more and more taking away choices and therefore decisions (consider my very first comment on the title). If we think that further, the next step will be to have independent individual systems, based on algorithms, that will make their own conclusions and independent decisions. And that is where, in my opinion, we will have reached the next evolutionary step in mankind. And yes, it was once rooted in real people, in us.
  3. Yes, very interesting thoughts!
  4. I really like the idea of designing technology, respectively algorithms that are complemented by ethics and moral. Very interesting thought. If you think about, it can be very effective, as well as efficient. Humans tend to be bipolar, means that they are highly ambiguous in their actions. One day they preach about the consequences of climate change, the next day they drive with their Mercedes to the local farm far outside of the city, just for some organic eggs. Machines would never make such a decision, if there would be an ethical dimension to it.
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