MTPcon 17 — theme 4: designing for the future

Two of the talks at MTPcon were concerned with designing for our future. On the one hand Amber Case was advocating for calm technology, while Josh Clark was talking about considerations for designing machine learning and big data products.

Amber Case, who is a scholar at MIT, started talking about a few worries of hers: a connected kitchen, where every piece of the kitchen would be using a different technology system with its own username and password, asking for your attention all the time, and were you to move, you’d have to get all the credentials from the previous tenants, making sure it works with your current devices… it all seems very disruptive.

Amber Case is an advocate for Calm Technology and she has a set of rules she to define calm technology:

  1. technology should not be intrusive, it should remain in the background
  2. technology should only be there when you need it
  3. tech should inform and calm
  4. tech should amplify the best of technology and the best of humanity: machines shouldn’t act like humans and humans should act like machines
  5. technology can communicate, but it doesn’t need to speak
  6. technology should consider social norms
  7. the right amount of tech is the minimum amount to solve the problem

Josh Clark also had the future in mind, thinking about what rules we should apply to build big data products and he had a few recommendations as well

  • Principle 1: embrace uncertainty. Machine learning products such as image recognition technology has still a lot of short comings — for example this one:

Clark suggests that we need to embrace the lack of knowing instead of building the perfect machine that is always right. Here is his suggestion for the same image:

  • Principle 2: improve the data. Another challenge of our time is the quality of the data that we feed into big data products. We are running the risk of teaching it pre-existing prejudice and inequalities, reinforcing structural inequality rather than creating a level playing field. Algorithms are in no way objective. They represent the agenda of the agenda of the person who is behind them.
  • Principle 3: responsible data gathering. As we are getting better at gathering lots of data, we need to be more responsible in the way we do it. We need to be loyal to the user, and take responsibility, as your product will have the values that you put into it.

More MTPcon 17 themes:

(1) the contribution of leadership

(2) creating space and opportunity for teams to perform

(3) rejecting or embracing the past



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