GLOBAL DESIGN FUTURE ENVISION

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Future Forecasting 

what if technology intervene our decision-making process

 
 

PHILOSOPHY OF FUTURE

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The future is a mysterious thing. For me, identifying the next big thing is a philosophical task. We can always opinions which oppose our own or logic critiques which challenge our original thinking and how we look into future.

Basically, the future I look into is about how impact upon our lifestyle which technology brings to us. There are many news report said that robot and artificial intelligence are going to replace a number of jobs/ professions, and robots’ capability is going to exceed human’s. If we analyze the viewpoint that these news stand at, it seems that human-being always live at a passive position, the only thing we can do is waiting for technology to conquer our life. However, actually, we are the main actors in this development, we still own the opinions to choose what is going to happen. We still have the right to refuse the things which we do not want to occur in the future by our will.

We can simplify the final outcome of future technology development into a confrontation between human-being and technology. Technology spurs human-being into the next era. In contrast, from public debates on robot’s ethical issues, we can tell that human-being also try to push technology out of their life. Let’s neglect how the future gonna to be, eventually, the future is an antagonistic outcome of of these two force. In conclusion, in this future forecast research, I’m looking for what the final stable status after antagonism between technology and us. 

RESEARCH PROCESS

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THE FUTURE I LOOK INTO

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TECHNOLOGY WILL INTERVENE IN PEOPLE’S DECISION-MAKING PROCESSES IN DAILY LIFE

In the future, technology will read people’s mind and intervene in our decision-making process. The way that technology intervenes could be direct and manifest or could be secretive and sneaky. We are going to lose choices in solving the questions we ask because we’ll only be able to see the options that technology considers appropriate. In the extreme, technology will actually make decisions for us.

WHY WOULD I THINK SO

The future I identified is based on the trends which are happening right now. The way I defined these trends as trends is based on my own observations, experience, and interpretations of things, so it is a subjective process. Therefore, I think that I should write it down my own definition of the word ‘ Trend ‘ for declaring my subjectivity.

What’s the trend? In my opinion,

  • Trend is a man-made outcome.
  • Trend is a force that lead present into future.
  • Trend is the topics that people are talking about recently.
  • Trend is not a definite consequence.

THE TRENDS LEAD TO THE FUTURE

Trend #1.  Digitalise everything

In the last twenty years, we try to transfer things from physical into digital. Nowadays, for most developed countries, cash is not the first choice of checking. Furthermore, more and more companies pay salary to employees through bank transfer instead of putting cash in envelopes. We are used to pay by card and manage our assets by checking the on-line banking app. Moreover, there are a significant increase of amount of on-line business. We don’t need to own a shop or any facilities for operating a business, just build up a fancy website and promote on the social media.

Digitalisation build up a virtual world, and people enjoy living in there (consciously). Digital world could exist beyond geography border and break temporal limits. It has already satisfied human-being’s limitless desire and needs. Numerous modern scientists are trying to upgrade the level of digitalisation and explore the boundary of digital world. For example, David Cox, Assistant Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology and Computer Science at Harvard, he tried to up Building Artificial Brains and Uploading Minds to Cloud. This trend has lasted for 20 years, and will keep trending in the future.

Trend #2. Flitter Bubble

One of most surprising news in 2016 is that Alpha Go beat the Lee Sedol, professional Go player. This news tells that Algorithm could diagnose what people do and what might people think in a certain rules. Of course, it’s not powerful enough to ruining our meaning of being, but it definitely change the way we shape the world. For example, Facebook use algorithm to provide the content that users might be interested in for the purpose of marketing or advertising. We become a fuzzy eater with regards to updating latest news. On the Internet, we become a sight loss people because we are being controlled, blocked to see whole things.

We called this phenomenon: flitter bubble effect. This manipulated feeds intervene our sense making process and indirectly influence how we make decisions. Unfortunately, there is no law yet for regulation, so we haven’t been able to recognise any mechanism of  controlling these conditions.  And more and more digital service companies will utilise the power of algorithm to brainwashing people’s cognition.

Trend #3. People are more dependent on the convenience that technology given

Modern people are seeking for convenience, fast, effortless instead of correctness, accuracy, safety, or privacy. For example, Uber gives us a seamless commute experience, and the app also track our position continuously. Amazon provide million choices of shopping and also deliver the goods in time, but it also tracks our behaviors on their website and keep promoting the things we have ever reviewed before. We have taken the convenience that technology given for granted, and loss our privacy. Sometimes, we would buy something we originally doesn’t plan to buy. In terms of this condition, we lose our correctness of thinking.

The children who was born in the last ten years, they live in this convenient world. It might be hard for them to image the world without smartphone or internet. They might take this kind of convenience for granted, and contribute to unbreakable connection between their rest of life and technology.

Trend #4. Internet of things, everything is connected

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Smart city, self-driving car, un-maned factory, etc. Human-being is endeavoring for these near future vision, and all of this vision are based on Internet of things technology. The development of IOT technology stands for our imagination of ideal future and a great deal of business benefits. Every industry vertical can benefit from IoT, from the public sector (everything from traffic control to garbage pickup) to the private sector (logistics, transportation, healthcare).


DESIGN PROVOCATION:

CONFIRM AND ITERATE THIS FUTURE

In order to confirm and iterate the future in my mind, I design a prototype of technological device. This is a wearable device, a wristband, it can detect people’s physical signal, such as our blood pressure, blood sugar, heart beat,etc., and deliver these data to our smartphone. The app in smartphone can analysis these data and use algorithm to interpret data into our extent of rationality. When people are anxious about the problem they are dealing with, this application would send users a notification and tell them that they are not in a good condition to make decisions.

In the experiment, I invite people to wear this device and put them into different scenarios. All of scenarios I given are about our common behaviors in daily life, like buying fruit, on-line payment by credit cards, or giving proposal to colleague and managers, etc. This device sent a low rationality reminder to interviewees as they made decisions and I recorded their reactions, opinions, and critics. Expect for feedback collection, the other aim is opening a dialogue and discussing about future with interviewees. Through this activity, I was able to refine and iterate my imaginary future.


THE INSIGHTS FROM THE DESIGN PROVOCATION

#1. Technology will let human stay conscious in their decision-making process.

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One of interviewees said, ’Driving driverless car, ordering something on the internet, buying food in Amazon Go shops, whatever which scenario is, I would feel annoyed when this device is reminding me that I am irrational right now. I would delete or abandon this device immediately without any hesitation.’ Unfortunately, we can see that rationality reminder can’t make people be rational again. All of them consider rationality reminders as threats instead of cares. They feel that they are being doubted and questioned by the technological device. Furthermore, they mentioned that they want to destroy or abandon the device immediately for blocking  wristband’s interference. From my point of view, this is corresponding to our ownership of mind. They want to declare that they are the host of making decisions.

People need to feel that they have ownership of their decision-making process. Technology wants to engage our natural process of operating mind, however, it is a heterogeneous element to our mind. In other words, people will feel uncomfortable and wired not only because we have never experience before, but its properties conflict to our instinct. For example, one of biggest arguments about driverless car is ‘who is the person drives the car, human? or Computer?’ Despite we all know that the incidence of traffic accident when computer drive car is much lower than people drive, most people still want to control steering wheel by themselves. People are afraid of being deprived our will of controlling our own lives. It becomes the main obstacles of implementation of driverless car on real life in the future.

Therefore, in the future scenario, technology will intervene in people’s decision-making process but not totally takeover people’s free will, rights, opportunities to make decisions under our conscious.

#2. One of roles of technology in human’s decision-making process is helping people eliminate potential risks

When I asked the interviewees about the reason why they felt annoyed towards rationality reminder, they said that they can’t understand the intent of this rationality reminder in some scenarios, such as buying fruit in markets. They thought that there is no risk within this decision-making process. In contrast, when I asked interviewees to make a decision of buying house, they hesitated and more respected to the rationality reminders. Their attitude and the duration of considering were extremely different between these two scenarios. From the phenomenon, I concluded some critical factors which influence how we make decisions.

When we are not confident in making some particular decisions, the rationality reminder would be interpreted into a warming. A warming tells people that there are some potential risks existed but we did not notice. Undoubtedly, we try to avoid risks in decision-making process whatever we are rational or irrational. These risks are the risks we can perceived, most are based on our experience. There are two factors influence how we identify risks. Firstly, from the individual sector, the proficiency of making the decision. Just like buying fruit, we are the professional of making this kind of decisions, so we would consider there is no risks within these decisions. However, most of us are not good at buying house. Secondly, from the environmental sector, familiarity toward the environment where people make decisions affect our sensibility of sensing potential risks as well. If we buy fruits in the space where we are not familiar with, like outer space, we will hesitate and re-think about potential risks within this decision. To sum up, when we are making decisions, it is very important that the relationship between decision makers and the questions decision makers face, as well as the approaches how we communicate with subjects.

Therefore, In which way, technology can truly help people in design making process? From this insights, technology can help people eliminate the potential risks within different subjects, especially, in the moment when people hesitate and feel uncertain about conditions. It would be an opportunity space for technology intervention of human’s decision-making process.

#3. From answering multiple choice questions to essay questions, technology could extend our considerations in decision making process.

We just positioned the technology in decision making process on helping people eliminate risks. Following this insight, the next question is ‘How could technology leverage its advantage to aid people to avoid risks?’. In the design provocation, the information that smart wristband gives is a brake of making decision, a damping mechanism. It tells people that they might be unsuitable for making decision at this moment. However, the information that this technological device provided mislead to simplify their situation into a true/ false question.

Two of my interviewees mentioned, when they are going to make a critical decision, they wish that they can ‘keep calm’ and ‘stay back’. In this design provocation experiment, we already know that technology cannot be the tool of making people calm again, but technology does have capability to help people ‘stand back’. For example, some of people buy expensive goods, they would search good’s user rating. It is the behavior of standing back. They review more information instead of implosive purchases.

One of advantages of technology is without emotion, and not confined by time and space. It can exist beyond current options those we think we own, analyse different situations without much energy consumption. For example, Alpha Go can analyze every possibility and human would be confined by our emotions, pressure, experience and cognitions. That’s why eventually alpha go make a better decision in the Go contest. Technology could help people stand back by broadening their choice and provide general knowledge that we have not known ever before. Instead of falling into our logic trap, treating most problems as multiple choice questions, we can transform the logic of answering questions into essay questions by utilizing technology’s advantages.

#4. Technology will tag actions for people, but avoid shouldering unnecessary responsibilities.

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In this experiment, all of interviewees receive the same reminder but they interpret the rationality reminder in various ways. But, there is a point in common, they can’t understand what should they do after the information notification. After receiving notification, their identical instinctive responses are ‘So…what should I do now, should I just quit?’  From their reaction, we can tell that people cannot gain any further information for re-considering about current situation in this prototype, and this makes them feel frustrated about using this device. The interviewee suggested that this device should provide some actions for diminishing people’s suspicion. From their point of view, technology should give users’ some possible next actions for exploring the subjects that they are going to make decision. Not only just about subject itself, but also guide people to go through the next moment.

However, it comes to another problem: How can we make sure that the guidance which technological application provides will not take responsibility of outcomes if users do not get a positive feedback after they follow the guidance. Who can shoulder responsibilities of negative outcomes? user or the application providers? In the case of current wearable devices on the market, such as Nike sport watch, Xiaomi Band, and Samsung Gear fit, application providers would not tell users how to do for improving your sleep quality or health condition, they only provide the outcome of data collection. Because they are not doctor or nutritionist, they are not able to promise user anything in case of negative impact happens.

In conclusion, technology should handle the extent of intervention for striking a balance between adding values on people’s decision-making process by tagging actions and possible negative affects upon users. Through considering both sectors, technology application would be sustainable and scalable in the long term.

#5. Before intervention, technology will endeavor to build up trust with users

In the course of experiment, we found that trust is always the foundation when intervention happens. All of interviewees do not believe what wristband show on their smartphone, but they believe what friends, bloggers or Youtubers say, even though they are not always correct. Basically, opinions are the things both of the rationality wristband and friends/ bloggers/ Youtubers provide, but all of interviewees prefer believing what their friends say. Trust is based on numerous factors: environment, users’ past experience, scenario, communication ways, word of mouth, etc. It is a time-consuming process for technology to build up trust on users’ mind, but a dispensable process.

 

Derivative insight

: Technology probably will creep into our decision making process secretly without our permission.

From the previous five key findings, we can see that technology need to fulfill a lot of criteria for fluently accessing into people’s decision-making process. However, all of insights we discussed in the previous paragraphs are still under social, ethical and moral controls. In the reality, technology development always advance current social criterions.

Due to the Internet of things, massive data collection will be a common and inevitable thing in the future context.  Data becomes an more valuable assets than money because it can transfer into cash flow and manifest marketing benefits. Under the present institutional policies, data collection still out of scale that regulations protect. Technology could easily across ethical obstacles and creep into people’s mind and life without our permission.

This would be the future that we don’t have to create, but inevitable.


THE ROLE OF SERVICE DESIGN IN THIS FUTURE

Service design is a new discipline in the design field, and service designers are trying hard to prove our values in academic and industry field. There are two key traits which makes service design different from other kinds of design: Holistic Viewpoint and Human Centre Design. Holistic Viewpoint, service design is working at human scales and connect across networks of people and things, it focus on both the detail and the big picture. (L. Kimbell, J. Juiler 2012). For me, service design is a design subject which cares about the ‘Balance’. It aims to create a stable balance between different sectors for gaining long term values. Moreover, human centre design, service design creates works based on the ways people actually do and think. This design characteristic give people a say, an opportunities to involve in development or evolution of things rather than always business, technology first and ignore the fundamental values.

How can we utilize these two unique skills to impact the future? If we divide the time line of technology’s intervention into two phase: before and after technology comes, we can find out two role that service design plays in the future.

Before technology comes to our mind, service design is able to deal with wicked problems and ethical issues, take a lead to remind and emphasis the importance of finding a balance between environment, society, culture, business and individuals. Service designers should be a humane designers and create ‘health’ ‘sound’ services, which means that an inclusive design without any sacrifice of values those we really care about. After technology comes, the aims of development evolve into ‘Supervision’ and ‘Management’. In this phase, service design will play a critical role in policy making. This kind of service design institutions usually is design or qualitative research studio which serve for governments. It can help policy makers look into the voice from diverse perspective and provide comprehensive research for facilitate new policy to take considerations into a big view.


CONCLUSION

The society that human-being live in is a dynamic organism, there are infinite factors influencing our future. We can classify all of factors into seven sectors: economic, environment, political, institutional, social, technological, and cultural sector. In the future I identify, technology is the main subject that we are discussing, and economic benefits are the key momentum pushes technology into exponential  development. On the other hand, if we discuss this subject from environmental, social and cultural sector, we can see that some many potential barriers delay the coming of this technological future. Lastly, unfortunately, political and institutional sector are usually the last things we discuss, reflect in the development of civilization. Because of the low pace of legislating or adjusting regulations in democratic mechanism, policies usually are being considered as ‘Potential’ threats instead of main urgent obstacles.

All of the insights from this design provocation experiment are highly correlated to these seven fundamental sectors. These key findings are not in conflict with the trends or the future I identified in the beginning, but build on the underlying assumptions and provide more detail of resulting potential futures.


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