“No other technology has changed humanity and the world with the same speed and intensity that data- and web-based intelligent systems (AI) have.”

Alessandro Bozon and Geert Jan Huben talk about the relationship between AI and design

News – Dec 08, 2022 – Webredactie outreach

“Our mission is to develop technology that people use and integrate it into everyday life, making the world a better place. We want to train responsible engineers. This can only be achieved by engaging in a very literal conversation with all the different stakeholders who will use this technology. This is exactly the field. in which methodologies from the world of architecture and design can help.” Conversation with Geert Jan Houben, Vice-Chancellor for Artificial Intelligence, Data and Digitalization and Head of the Artificial Intelligence Initiative and Alessandro Bozon, Professor of Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence in the School of Industrial Design Engineering (IDE) at TU Delft. In his work, the latter is committed to improving well-being and promoting inclusion through personalized social computing systems.

Alessandro, what is your personal motivation for doing this job?

Alessandro Bozon: “Gert Jann and I grew up in a different time. We experienced the transition from the analog world to the digital one. We were there, when the digital society emerged. I’ve been playing with web technology since the beginning, out of curiosity for what it was. We’ve also witnessed the emergence of intelligent systems in society, And we saw how these systems changed people, how they changed society as a whole. Digital technologies have tremendous power and we cannot deny how destructive they can also be, how they can cause harm. It is very important that we learn to control them.”

Can you explain what your research is about?

Alessandro Bozon: My personal interest has always been in the human side of this movement. I wanted to do research on the human side, but I was well versed with technological insight. So I’m interested in the technical elements of AI, but also how it manifests itself in relation to people using AI. You have to understand – especially in the case of AI – who these people are, what they do, what they want, how they want it and the context in which they’re going to use the technology. Only then can you create an AI technology that can be used, that really helps us, without all sorts of unintended side effects.”

When you say: you have to speak well to people and understand people, does that sound almost like psychological or social research?

Alessandro Bozon: “It’s such an interdisciplinary way of doing research, we’re really benefiting from the knowledge that’s been created by other disciplines. And the knowledge that’s been created by colleagues who work on the applied side of AI, such as health and mobility topics.”

How should we see it: designing AI systems?

Alessandro Bozon: “When you hear the word ‘design’, you shouldn’t think of aesthetics in this case: chairs and tables. AI systems don’t work in isolation. They are part of social and technical systems, organizations, and society; it’s about the interaction between people, the algorithms, and the data used to train These algorithms, that come from people, interfaces — all of that. And we have to shape that.
When we think of architecture, we think of a straight line, from data to model to user. or from software requirements to the user. In practice, this is not a straight line but a circle. Design evolves over time, as we get a better understanding of people, a better understanding of technology, it’s constantly changing.”

Gert Jean Houben: “Exactly, if all goes well, there will be interaction between software, data, technology and people. And that interaction has to be designed carefully and carefully. I think that’s the crux. Our goal is to make sure that the interaction between the machine part and the human part works well; and effectiveness.”

Alessandro Bozon: When it comes to the relationship between people and technology, we often talk about trust, or about adaptation, and how we successfully integrate technology into everyday life. What we need to explore is how people can and want to use and interpret technology. This is where design can come into play; First, let’s understand: What problem is technology trying to solve? Then we look: How can we make this technology work? For me, success means not only functioning as intended, but also truly integrating into everyday life. Sometimes, you see, AI technology has an impact that was not anticipated: issues of bias, discrimination, and harm: all arise from a mismatch between the desired effect and the actual manifestation of the technology. This is exactly where design plays a role: to help visualize the future. And we want to involve the people who will use the technology in the design and engineering process. “

This is exactly where design comes into play: understanding the problem a technology is trying to solve, and then making that technology work

Alessandro Bozon

Can you give an example?

Alessandro Bozon: “Alexa the virtual assistant is a classic example of AI technology becoming normalized in our daily lives. Ethical principles play a role here: we want Alexa to do no harm, to be useful, honest and helpful. There is a technical side: developing the right algorithms. But there are also questions Related to design: What data are we going to use, whose data are we going to use? What is the interaction between algorithm and person going to look like? What kind of conversations are going to have? Who isn’t? These are all things that we “shape”.

Gert Jean Houben: On the one hand, it is important for people to get this form of technology right: it is about the right interpretation. On the other hand, the form is not always the same either, because it depends on the context. So I think meaning and context are two very important elements.”

Alessandro Bozon: “Many AI projects and innovations are being developed that then do not find a good relevance in society, there are a lot of inventions that no one uses or wants. Because no effort has been made to understand what is really needed. If you are developing an AI innovation for a factory, You want the people in the shop to be part of the design process from the start. I’m working on a Horizon project called COALA for that. We make technology through the eyes of the people who are going to use it; we understand their level of education, their concerns with technology, etc. That’s the principle. The core of what we mean by AI at Delft: AI is not a technology to replace people, but to support people.”

Gert Jean Houben: Adaptation of the word is important. AI. Saying ‘use’ gives the impression that once you decide how you want to use it, all you have to do is create it. But in the case of artificial intelligence, it is an interactive and continuous process. Our understanding of people evolves, as does our relationship with Technology is lightning fast. It’s always evolving.”

In the case of artificial intelligence, there is an interactive and continuous process. Our understanding of people is evolving, and our relationship with technology is also evolving at lightning speed: this is always evolving.

Gert Jean Houben:

If you design an agricultural machine, that also applies, right?

Alessandro Bozon: “I would say that AI is a revolutionary technology that we haven’t seen before. Revolutionary, because AI technology changes because of the way we humans interact. There is a deep dependency: the way we use technology changes it. Think of filter bubbles or polarization as you see. In the world now. Was it possible to predict in advance that social media algorithms would have this effect? ​​Perhaps. But above all, it shows that it is impossible to regard the innovation of artificial intelligence as “finished”. In this sense, it is fundamentally different from designing a machine agricultural.”

Gert Jean Houben: “You design a solution to a specific problem, and then people start using it, and it’s also affected by their environment and others; there are all kinds of processes and influences at play, and we see it reflected in the technology that adapts to that use.”

Alessandro Bozon: There has always been a relationship between man and technology, but the difference with AI systems is that, unlike other systems, they do not always exhibit predictable behavior in advance. Unpredictable effects may occur. And they are dynamic. It affects us personally, it affects the society in which we live. No other technology has changed humanity and the world with the same speed and intensity as intelligent systems based on data and the web.”

Alessandro Bozon: The design perspective is about seeing people as they are, not as you want them to be. And yes, people have different technical capabilities, different education levels, etc. Design can allow adaptation without you having to think about it. Good technology is technology that disappears, that just merges.”

Gert Jean Houben: “With good design, you can get the user to focus on those actions and actions they want to take. The user is not burdened with other things. With the goal of trying to convince the user to make good decisions.”

And you can make this, here at TU Delft, technology that fuses and people can do good things with?

Alessandro Bozon: “The great thing about TU Delft is that researchers work together, which I believe is essential to developing and designing the desired AI technology. The Delft AI Labs are a good example of this: a technology perspective, an ethical perspective, and a design perspective come together in the AI ​​Labs, where the conduct of Dialogue. That’s actually what society is asking of us. And our students are learning this, too. They’re not only learning to work together, they’re also learning to understand what it takes to create AI and create systems that will have a positive impact on the world.”

In AI Labs, the technology perspective, the ethical perspective, and the design perspective come together, where the dialogue takes place

Alessandro Bozon

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