Design Fiction: Construing as a conversation for action

Design Fiction: Construing as a conversation for action

Futures Thinking

Design Fiction: Construing as a conversation for action

Written by
Sandeep Ozarde

10 min read

Written by
Sandeep Ozarde

10 min read

Futures Thinking

Design Fiction: Construing as a conversation for action

Design Fiction is a form of design, method, and a prototyping technique that is specifically designed to facilitate conversations, learn a new point of view, build newer contexts ie. “What if”, promote collaboration and active dialogue among design practitioners and academia about near-future prototypes to understand the spectrum of all new possible futures. Design Fiction has a relatively undeveloped mythological underpinning, we designers have an opportunity to critique, explore, and experiment. eg. How should we frame Design Fiction to improve the quality of interactions between human-to-machine, human-to-human, machine-to-machine? How Design Fiction can help generate more effective conversations? Design Fiction can help model the different conversation patterns to help improve the human-machine interaction eg. Siri, Alexa, Google Assistant, Robo-Advisor — How can these human-machine conversations be improved?

Design a new way of making Design Fictions

Today’s most hypercritical challenges are global in scale and have a direct impact on the quality of life, they include the future of human-computer interactions, healthcare, population, climate change, cybersecurity, and many other scenarios requires better methods to respond to these changes. The Fourth Industrial Revolution is changing as profound as the First Industrial Revolution which gave birth to the design profession. The ongoing paradigm shift will profoundly change the future of design practice as we know it. I will be exploring new ways of investigating and validating the current and near-future prototypes by applying Design Fiction as pedagogy eg. Can we apply Design Fiction to machine learning? Can we use Design Fiction methods to make human-machine interactions more intuitive and empathetic? Can we apply Design Fiction to Cybernetics concepts?

Future of Cybernetics

Design Fiction and Cybernetics framework can be used to understand and improve the things we design. The influence of Cybernetics on design fundamentals goes back fifty years, Cybernetics remains almost unknown among designers, design education or discussions of design-methods. Cybernetics is another transdisciplinary approach for exploring systems, structures, constraints, and possibilities, there is great relevance of Cybernetics in design and AI systems, Design Fiction can be applied to Cybernetics (literally means to steer, navigate or govern), both Design Fiction and Cybernetics provides an epistemological foundation of science, Cybernetics is the science of feedback loop, information that travels from the system through its environment and back to the system — these complex systems are what interaction designers design.

Design Fiction construes as a conversation for action, these human-machine interactions also involves problems, goals, feedback loop and learning, both Design Fiction and Cybernetic system involve a process of observing situations and reflecting on how and why to improve that situation?

Future of Neobanking

Design Fiction can also offer Service Design an instrument to explore and probe new types of services made possible by emerging and future technologies eg. Fintech “Neobanks” also known as digital-only banks ie. Monzo, Starling Bank, N26, Atom Bank, Revolt, Simple, Good Money, Azlo & others.

Future of Agriculture

Design Fiction led Service Design can be extended into future of modern agriculture and food supply chain, agritech entrepreneurs already making great progress to empower farmers and help sustain the ecosystem eg SquareRoots, Clover, Intello Labs, Arya, Aquaconnect, Eruvaka Aquaculture IoT — Farmer Platforms, Rural Fintech, Agri SaaS, Harvest Monitoring. Agriculture 4.0 farmers will use sophisticated technologies such as robots, temperature and moisture sensors, aerial images, and GPS technology. These advanced devices and precision agriculture and robotic systems will allow farms to be more profitable, efficient, safe, and environmentally friendly.

Future of Robo-Advisor

Design Fiction can help make Robo-adviser more humanistic at most public places, banking sectors, travel, hospitals, education. Such prototypes utilize its algorithms to automatically understand your queries, allocate, mange customers eg. Betterment, Ellevest, Wealthfront SoFi, etc US Robo-advisory industry to hit USD1 trillion value in 2020, growing by 40 per cent year-on-year.

Future of Currency

Design Fiction also means to imitate and facilitate constructive dialogue and align collective action, Design Fiction method that offers designers an opportunity to speculate Cryptocurrencies and customer interaction in the near future, the emergence of Bitcoin has sparked a debate about its future and that of other cryptocurrencies such as Etherium, Litecoin, Ripple — a cryptocurrency that aspires to become part of the mainstream financial system which faces similar challenges as artificial intelligence and robotics ie. trust, safety, ethics, safety, and privacy.

Future of Health

Design Fiction other considerations eg elder generation or physically-unable simply cannot use touch screen devices (mobile, ATMs, airport boarding pass kiosk), touch screen still lacks tactile. Another example is that it's not easy for average users to use glucose monitoring devices and track them eg Accu-Chek.

Test your Design Fiction with possible users and designers.

Case 1 Robo-Advisor

I would like to test Design Fiction across different scenarios as mentioned above by interviewing people across the world. I will not find the right answers without understanding the human behaviour, psychology, relationships, social and cultural traits, I think we shouldn’t try to retrofit robotic artefacts into human lives, and hoping that humans will adopt one day or cohabit with robots and will evolve, this won’t work eg. iRobot or Ex Machina.

Case 2 Future of Privacy

The definition of privacy-rights must change as we progress further, currently none of our information is so-called “private or secure”, paradoxically its not possible to live modern life without revealing personal information to companies and governments — we cannot stop mass surveillance and soon including your DNA. The issue of privacy, liberty will eventually compromise our security. In the near future, we will be facing too many challenges to maintaining privacy and security at the same time — both are interdependent and requires radical change eg either people will reject behaviour modification through data mining en masse, or we will become so habituated to having our behaviour modified through data mining.

Case 3 Future of Robotics

Human cumulative cultural evolution is the process by which cultural traits (including human behaviours, artefacts, and tools) change over multiple episodes of social transmission to become more effective and beneficial to their users — and now robots, automation, autonomous vehicles, and artificial intelligence. Humans should be responsible for robots and humans are responsible for robots actions deliberate or by mistake or for that matter any intelligence form/algorithms we create — for which we need strict protocols to follow the rule eg Tesla autopilot cannot run over someone by mistake — the human driver is still responsible for it. Before robots populate our urban environment, we need to resolve challenges concerning their social desirability, responsibility, and legal system.

Case 4 Future of Data

We need to apply a humanistic lens to the questions of what data we need, and how to organize it to best use. What business problem is the data model trying to solving? How can we design a data structure to build context? Who are the end-users? Are they technical or non-technical? What value are they expecting to derive from this product? Is the data static or dynamic? What is the granularity and quality of the data being collected? How do we best represent that information? What are the larger implications of this data model? How big is the market? Who are the other players in this market? Are they complimenting your product or direct competitors? What is the switching cost? What are the key regulatory, cultural, socioeconomic, and technological trends to take into account?

The technical facets of data — latency, density, context, meaning, and size alter system AI/ML/IoT behaviour and deeply affect the user experience. Design Fiction will consider and manipulate these tools of their expertise to affect quality, availability, and usability. Design Fiction becomes a bridge discipline to the emerging world of applications that have minimal or even non-existent visual interfaces.

Case 5 Future of Machine Intelligence

The machine intelligence is already being used by hackers, and that criminals are more sophisticated in their use of this emerging technology than many people realise. In the past few years, artificial personal assistants (Siri or Alexa or Google Duplex), self-driving cars, and disease-diagnosing algorithms, these initial forms of Artificial Intelligence attempts should be secured, monitored to protect unforeseen threats to people, institutes, hospitals, govt. and society at large. When we want to use data for Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, you’ve to go beyond the standard criteria of data quality. These criteria — like availability, usability, and reliability — are still valid. But we should also take veracity into account: is the data truthful. And you need methods and roles to establish the truthfulness of your data.

Case 6 Future of Design Tools

Designer’s toolset is what’s needed when cognitive systems become more commonplace. These systems will do far more processing of data and expect to present less raw information. This processing and output will require design, not just for performance and information accuracy, but also to make systems humane. Designers will drive how information is used by machines to perform tasks that don’t require human intervention. Designers can turn data into information into knowledge. They help deliver a world where interfaces get out of the way and allow people to live more naturally, spending less time with machines and more on life itself.

Case 7 Future of Digital Reasoning

Albert Einstein once said, “The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence.” All reasonings and investigations begin with a question. Every question can lead to ideas being challenged, validated and new ones being generated. British philosopher Michael Polanyi argues in his work The Tacit Dimension 1966, Polanyi explored the tacit dimension to human knowledge and developed the concept of tacit knowledge, as opposed to the term explicit knowledge. Human tacit knowledge is intuitive, non-verbal and unarticulated knowledge. It is the knowledge that resides in a human brain and that cannot easily be codified or captured. Polanyi’s Paradox has been widely considered a major obstacle in the fields of artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics and automation, since the absence of consciously accessible knowledge creates difficulty in programming eg. thinking, experience, awareness. “Tacit interactions” can be an important research factor in Design Fiction, this is probably beyond pure reasoning or logic.