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SwissCognitiveEmpowered by rapidly advancing machine intelligence, product designers are rethinking the fundamental principles which guide the way they work. Faced with an evolving and exciting set of problems, product designers are asking a new set of questions to reinvent the model of human-computer interaction. How do we empower people rather than overwhelm or terrify them? How do we help people grapple with intelligences that will inevitably exceed their own? How do we think about user experience (UX) design when it is no longer aimed at helping people understand machines, but rather machines that will understand human beings and communicate accordingly?

Design for human and machine

We are no longer designing for just the user. We’re in the nascent era of designing for interactive conversations between two intelligent agents. While some of these designs are voice-based, we are still focused on creating windows, not screens, for relationships across interactions. Successfully designing for these interactive relationships requires an additional consideration of the machine’s goals, the machine’s journey and the machine’s needs in any given context.

Understand the stakes

Fruitful conversations rely on trust and respect. To put it plainly, you might be less concerned about taking product recommendations directly from an AI system than you would be about taking medical advice. The more complex and important a set of interactions is, the more the user has to both respect the machine’s competence at coming to a solution and trust that it has the user’s best interests at (digital) heart.

Design like you talk

A key part of winning trust and respect, and facilitating a productive conversation, is rooted in a slight riff on the old adage about good writing, which is: “write like you talk”. AI-empowered interactions change our goal. We are now designing to help machines meet people where they are. In other words, we get to let people be people again.

Leverage active “listening” (in moderation)

AI can listen. Computers used to wait for input but today, machines collect information through our online exchanges, interactions and communications. Through each new app, each new device, each new interface, the collective machine is capable of learning more about us every day. As designers, we have both a huge opportunity and an immense responsibility.

Convince is the new convert

Despite the machine’s ability to listen and generate information passively in some contexts, the user is still called on to take action during many interactions. Depending on the stakes, that required action might be stressful or go against gut instinct (say, decisions about medical treatment or financial planning). As AI becomes a part of high-stakes interactions, designers can look to a cousin of the age-old “conversion” flow for a framework: convince is the new convert. In a wide variety of realms ripe for AI involvement, machines (and their designers) will find themselves in the position of persuading the user towards a logical conclusion.  It’s about context, mutual understanding, nuance and trust. Machines will need to understand us if we’re to understand, and believe in, them.

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