On Design — The Birth of Designer A.I.s and the Death of Designers as We Know Them

Looking back at the last couple of years, with more of a birdview on how things went and are going, I have to say… we, the digital folks, have been digging our own graves for quite some time now. Shall we ditch the graves till the hole is still shallow enough for us to exit it?

Header image by siyanaivanova.nl

The Verdict

See… in recent years design has transformed businesses never imagined before. Art is death, so is poetry, and so is religion. But frameworks and Powerpoint presentations, tech, analytical & data stuff, social media, Medium articles on how to earn 10K a month doing nothing, cryptocurrencies, etc. have been put on a pedestal by no-one else than ourselves. FOMO has us big time. When one of the usual suspects when it comes to privacy & data mining, brings out a new smart speaker or phone, we sleep in front of the store to buy it first thing in the morning. We have become masters of exchanging very questionable principles for the convenience of a talking machine that we can ask about the weather outside. So we don’t have to look or go outside and figure the temperature out for ourselves. Having constant digital surveillance doesn’t bother us, sharing all of our pictures, thoughts, things bought and things sold with a bunch of Sillicon Valley companies is the most common modern-day thing to do. Not be bothered at all by the lack of privacy is the mark of the 21st century. With a lack of transparency around the tech algorithms, the ever growing numbers of social media users (linked to growing mental illnesses), the new age psychological terrorist organizations like QAnon, and the fragileness of the human brain, not equipped with the skills to handle the digital world which wasn’t there for the 99% of our species existence, alarming bells should be fired in everyone who’s reading this or has paid some attention to what’s going on. And yet… ignorance and disinformation are thriving.

Recycling pixels and trends

Who to thank about those recent years tech ‘wonders’? Well… the designers for one. The UI designers, UX designers, CX designers, Product designers, Growth designers, Brand designers. You name it, we have it. Every person who has read Hooked, and has a slight understanding of persuasive and color psychology is a designer nowadays. But self-invented job titles aside, we all do the same thing — we help users use our digital products, as much as possible. By following trends and patterns, using ‘data’ to tell us what people are like, and mostly, by having no idea what we are doing most of the time. Shame really.

Have you been on Dribbble recently? There is no need to read articles on web & app trends, just spend 5 minutes on any creative shares platform and you will gain a very good sense of what is trendy right now. It’s all the same. The dribbbalisation of design is not a new concept, it’s been there almost as long as Dribbble itself. Platforms like this are so full of fake copy-paste creations, and by now, there is a Dribbble comment generator, that creates 100% ‘authentic’ comments that will blend perfectly with the rest when posted under someone's redesign of a platform where all the important features are replaced by a beautiful stock photo and a modern sans serif typefaces, like Proxima Nova or Gotham.

I spend 2 minutes scrolling through the ‘popular shots’ in Dribbble and this was almost everything I saw.

“I want to learn this kind of background! Teach me.”

A quote by an autogenerated Dribbble comment

The excuse

But hey… we’re living in a remix culture, there is nothing wrong with stealing ideas from one another. Except… the fact that singularity is near. Very near. See… our questionable principles have led to a Western world addicted to tech, fueled by FOMO and insecurities, and by now, we’re in a spiral that one can’t easily escape. All of this created an environment where algorithms and machine learning can thrive, meanwhile people’s limited minds slowly but surely burnout. So in a mid of a mental pandemic, with depression, stress, and suicide numbers exponentially growing, A.I’s have been fed with endless data (that we ourselves have contributed to give, in exchange for addiction). By now, the modern-day robots are sitting on the bench, waiting to be put to action and make almost every job obsolete. With alarming health numbers, and the fact that 1 in 4 US teenage girls reports thinking about attempting suicide we are reaching our end as humanity, so A.I might be a good substitute, but the irony that the creation will be the end of the creator is quite amusing for me.

Singularity is low-key here

A.I–human singularity is nothing new. Your smartphone is an A.I, so is your smart speaker. If not already, your coffee machine is A.I as well. With the upraise of quantum computing, the Internet of Things, data mining, and machine learning, computing is becoming ubiquitous, and we are becoming blind to how much around us is not nature but nurture. According to Ray Kurzweil, the father of the Singularity is Near theory and prediction, soon we will have nanotech chips in our body, regulating everything and making us superhuman or pre-intelligence nano neurons inserted in our brains that will, Matrix-style, insert whatever knowledge we want in our brains. No more reading books, no more doing karate for 10 years to get a red belt. Every scientist talks with awe about those things, none of whom include the fact that every technology can be hacked. So, yes, when those nano wonders arrive we will all run to the store and get them, and exactly the same way how Russians hacked Cambridge Analytica and low-key elected Trump as a president and did the Brexit stuff, someone (or by then, something) will hack you and you will be at its mercy forever. Brace yourself, stupidity and ignorance are about to reach an unprecedented time in history.

Back to the death of designers

There is a dude called Jordan Singer out there who, with the help of the all-powerful GPT-3 A.I. copywriter, created a Figma plugin that can design what you tell it to design. Isn’t that every non-designer wet dream? I mean, you know how long it takes for a Designer A.I. to go through everything on Dribbble, Behance, the App & Play Store, and just the Internet in general, to analyze it and to create something ‘unique’ out of it? It takes milliseconds. How long did it take you to do the same thing for your recent personal project? I bet weeks, if not months.

Google is advertising fake interest in fixing the climate problem, and at the same time building A.Is to mine as much as possible fossil fuels, so that we and this planet will die even faster than already predicted. Big companies are all in the A.I business now. It’s the next big thing. This one is legit big. As big as the end of humanity. Predictions say that deep learning technology will out-do Internet investors. Meaning that deep-learning tech for A.I.s is not on the verge to die, it’s on the verge of birth. Once there was a space race between USA and the Soviets to see who will go to the moon first, now there is a A.I. race between Amazon, Google, and Facebook. A race about which of those companies will kill your job first. The ‘uncreative’ robots have already taken over most of the more mechanical jobs, and the Covid pandemic only stimulates the production of more of those. So if you think that your quasi-creative job is safe and will exist for more than a few years, I’m sorry to break it to you, my friend, but… by now, there is an A.I. that can do literally everything better than you, and you taught it how to.

A better future

And all of this is very exciting and good news. See… when it comes to thinking, analyzing, and problem-solving, we, the humans, are screwed. No-one else to blame for it other than ourselves though. Soon enough, the digital world will have its own God, ruling over it, and perfecting itself, one 0 and 1 at the time. When you unleash such an infinite digital intelligence, nothing really is safe. Especially your job and these new crypto money everyone is mesmerized by. We are creating real digital life and giving it everything we have, our time, our personality, our lives, and our (now fully digital) money. No-one seems to care.

By now, technology is so advanced, there is only one secret weapon that people have that will secure their job and future — emotions. See, science is a bit behind on this aspect, because we think that emotion is something that is embedded in our brain, and our brain only. Which is fundamentally untrue. When you are stressed, you breathe shorter breaths, your heart is pumping faster, your body is tensed. When you’re happy or in love, there is a feeling of warmth throughout your whole body, you feel it in your heart, in your gut, in every cell in your body, really. Anger will tense the muscles in your face (eyebrows, jaws, etc.) and it will make your body want to release all this bad and stuck energy through punching or kicking. That’s because to experience emotion, the full spectrum of emotion, you need a body as much as a brain. Emotions are more physical than most scientists’ and psychologists' shallow understanding. But everyone in the A.I. business has been obsessed with the human brain and trying to transform it into a machine brain. Quite successfully even. By now, even the human heart, for long the most poetic organ, always associated with being the driver of emotion and love, has been reduced to a machine in recent years by the medicine and science world.

…In the process, the heart has been transformed from an almost supernatural object imbued with metaphor and meaning into a machine that can be manipulated and controlled.

By Sandeep Jauhar, a cardiologist

Between thinking and feeling, there is a giant black hole that lacks the knowledge to link those two together. That’s the good news. Most folks in the A.I. creation business will proudly display A.I.’s ‘showing emotions’ because they have been learned to mimic facial expressions. We see a robot smiling and we think that these machines understand the secret of happiness, even though centuries of human existence haven’t revealed to us what this secret really is. Well, they have, but we have been, again, too ignorant about it. We see robots dancing and we think — this is a happy robot, I wish I was this happy. But this robot is programmed to move this way, it’s n not dancing because he feels euphoria in every cell of his body.

I’m looking very optimistic toward a God-like A.I. future. I know that most human jobs will be unnecessary very soon. If there is (analytical) thinking involved in your job, like there is in growth hacking, development, design, marketing, etc. you will be out of the game pretty soon. Which means that the game will need to change. We, humans, are very much needed for the current state of our economy. We are consumers. We are users. If we stop consume packaged sugar like cereal, coca-cola, oreo, or everything in a box really, we will probably solve the plastic problem (next to obesity, heart diseases, sugar addiction, and many, many more) or we will make those big companies solve it themselves because of a radical drop in sales. If we stop being so proud of working for companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon that are monopolizing the whole world, then maybe those companies will need to do some retrospect on what has been going on and change for the better. If we demand better circumstances for animals, for ourselves, for the planet, and the climate, corporates and governments will need to follow, because we, the consumers dictate how things will turn. But we are not doing any of those things. We are spending our days on social media, investing in cryptos that we don’t even understand, and we crave everything that comes in a package, be it sugar, useless technology, clothing and shoes, and whatever we hope will bring us happiness, which it never does. Collectively, we’re very scared to die, even though there is nothing more inevitable than death, because deep down we know that we are wasting our time and lives, but we also do nothing to change that.

But very soon, this fake reality of ours will be shattered into thousand pieces, because more and more people with very ‘secure and future-proof’ jobs will find themselves jobless and nobody will give a single crap about it. So instead of continuing to dig your grave by pretending you’re good at your job because you saw a picture somewhere and you copied it with new colors or different typography, start investing more into the one thing that A.I.’s are not able to embody — emotion. Emotional design does sound like an A.I. dummy-proof future trend, since like I said, it will take some time, if ever, for A.I.s to comprehend emotion, because it doesn’t have a heart and guts and muscles and cells to feel it. But we do. It is our greatest biological weapon against technology. Why are we ignoring it and are continuing to do what a machine can do? I can see that we’re collectively ignoring the fact that all it takes today is a short description of what kind of website you want, for an A.I. to design it. Another millisecond for an A.I. to build it in HTML. Another millisecond to write an email/blogpost about it, and so on.

Don’t fool yourself that there is a place for you in the analytical and data world we currently live in. Evolve. It’s the natural state of being.

I have faith that in a few years we will not be slaves to tech anymore. Soon we will wake up to the fact that those small compulsive addictions to notifications, more followers, likes, shares, fights in the comment section, subliminal triggers to buy stuff and Cialdini’s principles to keep you glued to a screen will never make us happy. That day, the tech world will, maybe for the first time since its existence, stir humanity into a better direction. The force is strong with this one.

Don’t take it from me, take it from Darth Vader

Thanks!

Commentating on life & design. Also freelancing at both— siyanaivanova.nl.

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