Back to Human: AI’s Journey from Code to Cuddles

In the rapidly evolving landscape of artificial intelligence (AI), we stand at a crossroads that demands a pivotal shift in our approach. The current trend in the tech industry, particularly in Silicon Valley, is integrating AI into existing products, creating incremental innovations. This strategy has been crucial in familiarizing the public with AI, reducing apprehension and resistance. However, this approach is reaching its plateau. To truly harness the revolutionary potential of AI, we must return to human beings’ core needs and behaviors, forging new and disruptive “channels” for AI applications. AI must become touchy-feely!

In his seminal work “The Design of Everyday Things,” renowned author and design thinker Don Norman emphasizes the importance of aligning product design with human instincts and reactions. This principle is crucial in AI applications. It’s not just about embedding AI into existing products; it’s about understanding and tapping into the fundamental human experiences and needs.

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One effective tool for discovering these essential human-centric designs is ‘Design Fiction.’ This approach involves projecting ourselves into the future, utilizing elements from science fiction and weak signals to conceptualize new usages. By envisioning a future scenario and working backward, we create a roadmap from these futuristic usages to current products.

AI’s transformative nature demands new paradigms for sustainable integration into our daily lives. To achieve this, a certain level of scientific sophistication is necessary. Organizations like DeepMind, Google Research, FAIR, OpenAI, and Nvidia have laid the groundwork with their scientific advancements. Early prototypes like ChatGPT have created a sense of wonder and potential. The next step involves embedding AI into current products to enhance usability. However, the breakthrough will come from identifying genuinely disruptive usages that align with the technology’s capabilities.

Consider the revolution brought about by the iPhone’s touchscreen and App Store. Steve Jobs’s advocacy for touchscreen over the BlackBerry’s keyboard wasn’t mere posturing; it was rooted in a deep understanding of user preferences and needs. This approach is reminiscent of Jony Ive‘s recent discussions with OpenAI, hinting at a similar groundbreaking development in AI.

To identify these disruptive usages, we should not limit ourselves to current products but delve into the realms of science fiction and movies, where writers envision the future. A prime example is the movie and TV series “Limitless.” The central theme of augmenting human capabilities through a pill, NZT, resonates with the paradigm of AI augmentation. The protagonists, Eddie Morra and Brian Finch, demonstrate ignoring distractions and recalling every detail later. This concept aligns with deep anthropological needs and the augmentation paradigm. How cool would it be to recall what your teammate told you at the coffee machine this morning while you were focused on your WhatsApp conversation?

Companies like Rewind AI are exploring similar concepts. Rewind AI is a revolutionary technology that goes beyond basic photo editing or chatbots. It allows users to revisit and recall their life’s moments with exceptional clarity and detail. Think of it as a digital version of the fictional ‘Limitless’ pill. With Rewind AI, users can effortlessly access and replay their past experiences, just as they would flip through a photo album. Additionally, Rewind AI is also exploring the development of wearable technology that will give us the power to remember our daily lives even when we are away from our screens. This approach underscores the potential of lightweight AI models like the recently released Gemini Nano. This latest advancement in AI technology exemplifies the future of machine learning – compact, efficient, and astonishingly powerful. By embracing such lightweight yet potent AI models, we edge closer to a world where AI is not just an occasional assistant but an integral, seamless part of our everyday existence. 

In conclusion, the future of AI lies not in merely enhancing existing products but in creating new ones that resonate with our deepest human instincts and needs. By drawing inspiration from design fiction and understanding the essence of human behavior, we can develop AI applications that are not only innovative but also deeply aligned with our natural tendencies and desires. As we embark on this journey, the collaboration between visionary designers and AI experts promises to unlock the true potential of this transformative technology, paving the way for a future where AI is not just a tool but an extension of our human experience.

VP - AI Science & Research at Quincus | + posts

Christophe Pennetier is the Chief AI & Optimization Scientist at Quincus. As the Chief AI & Optimization Scientist, he brings 15+ years of global experience as a technical lead and a passionate polymath with expertise in bridging research scientists and application/innovation teams. Christophe's expertise in AI, NLP, and data science is complemented by a talent for strategy, creativity, and execution

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