The complexities of problems that we encounter, the resources we use and networks we operate in are going beyond human ability. We are seeking more help from technology in terms of robots, AI and IoT. The pride in being the owner of one’s own life is slowly transforming into pride in having gadgets to run one’s life.
These technologies are interfacing with our lives through non-intrusive virtual realities. This is making technology an extension of human abilities, till the point where the duality between natural and acquired abilities will vanish.
New gadgets and new environments need new behaviours. New gadgets also result in new behaviours unintended by designers. When these unintended behaviours are linked with disruptive technologies, it can also be disruptive to personal and social life.
The ethical challenges involved are critical because, unlike embedded functions, new technologies will have embedded decisions in them. Decisions will be taken much ahead of time, based on data and intelligent algorithms.
Though we have technology that can ‘machine learn’ and update decisions, the legal process will not be easy. However, going beyond these issues, we need a lot of practical wisdom associated with these new technologies.
Behavioural theories suggest that behaviour depends on the characteristics of task, characteristics of the involved individuals and characteristics of the social/physical infrastructure. New technologies are going to affect all three.
The networked, virtual environments will present new behaviours that will support the designs or inhibit its outcome. In any case, design needs to understand them quickly. This demands new knowledge – not of the technical nature alone but of behavioural nature as well.
The advent of technologies like personal computers and mobiles have shown us that we cannot envisage or predict all new behaviours. Above axiomatic or normative principles, we need real experiences that originate from real products embedded in day to day life.
Design must accept that humans are not as ‘bookishly’ rational as utilitarian theories want them to believe. Thus, it is crucial for the industry to invest in small ‘early to fail’ type of projects that involves low risk. These are important over experiences gathered in lab simulations.
Context greatly affects behaviour. These projects could provide behavioural prototypes. These technologies must be designed for use in very different settings like rural markets, health, education, elderly care and so forth to understand the canvas of behaviours.
However, the management and policymakers must look at them from a different perspective. The measure of success for these must be the experiences earned rather than revenue generated. We need to value successful failures in this era of uncertainty. Design research projects must also collaborate with the industry to structurally collect this data, build generic knowledge and present it back to practice within a very short turnaround time. One this is sure, exciting times ahead!