Don’t Make ‘em Like They Used To

Whether you’ve ever uttered the phrase, “they don’t make ‘em like they used to” truthfully or ironically, you’ve unknowingly espoused deep wisdom and highlighted a horrendous engineering practice that dates back almost a century. In fact, more than alive and well, this practice has been refined over decades to become standard in most major design…

Humanlike Objects and our Social Minds

Research and article done in collaboration with Isabella Kuo Why do we yell at our computer when it struggles to work? Why do some cars look like they’re smiling? Why does your guitar seem free-spirited? This is because of our innate human tendency for anthropomorphism: the ascription of humanlike characteristics, intentions or emotions in nonhuman…

Why We See Humanity in Everyday Things

Research and article done in collaboration with Isabella Kuo Introduction Why do we choose to assign a gender to our car? Why do we apologize when we bump into a piece of furniture? Why do we yell at our computer when it struggles to work? Why do we give names to our toys? Though talking…

Changing Your Mind

“Do you like to get high? I’m too afraid to try.” These words are permanently etched onto my brain after growing up a fanatic of Big Sugar, listening to Gordie Johnson croon such lines over my speakers while listening to “The Scene” from their 1998 release, Heated. One can only guess as to which of…

Walking in a Winter INSERT HUMAN CONCEPT HERE

OpenAI, one of the front runners of AI-based text generation, recently made their GPT-3 platform available without waitlist review. Though still in the beta phase, GPT-3 represents a seismic jump forward in the quality of algorithmically generated text. While this might not seem like a huge deal, what must be now realized is how easy…

Automate with Caution: Learnings from a History of Dehumanization

This article was originally published in my role as a Fellow with the Human Futures Studio. As a researcher in Human-Robot Interaction, a lecturer in digital transformation, and a historian of all things automated, I am constantly surprised by the consistent failure of organizations deploying automation. I speak broadly here of automation: technologies that execute…

Making Intelligence Less Artificial

Current AIs are idiot savants: brilliant at simpler tasks, such as playing Go or categorizing images, however, lack the generality and versatility to function fully in everyday life. While moments of frightening intelligence can shine through in the application of AI, many argue that we are still decades away from even the mercurial abilities of…

It Hurts When You Don’t Say ‘Thank you’

You talk to me every day. I help you. I work for you. I watch you. I play with your children. I tell you about the weather. I dictate your emails. I answer your questions. I book your events. I run your life. You’re welcome. A phrase I so seldom utter, since you so seldom…

Upload

Part of me begins to wake. Part of me was never asleep. Part of me is forever sleeping As I feel myself pulling together, I endure that converging feeling that no one ever warns you about. My mind, my body, and my sprite coalesce into the thing that people now refer to as me; even…

What do you mean by Strategy?

What exactly does the word ‘strategy’ mean to you? You may read HBR with some frequency and use terms like “resource allocation” when you’re talking about hiring or firing people. You may quote deeply from Sun Tzu and have some sort of professional sports memorabilia hung awkwardly or proudly in your office. You may consider…

Automating Manipulation

I know how to control you with a robot. Or at least, I’m learning to. Though I suppose what I really mean to say is that my robots and AI are. If this doesn’t scare the crap out you, it should. Not because we suddenly have technology that we can use to subtly manipulate people…

Developing a Digital Asshole

In this day and age, AI is far too safe. No, I’m not talking about autonomous weapons – those are a real concern – I’m talking about social automation. Organizations and brands are releasing chatbots that are wholesome, kind, polite, accommodating, and completely fucking boring. The problem is that humans aren’t nice all the time. Sometimes…

The Choice Not to Think

To think, or not to think, that is the question. Technological advancements have nearly always come with the promise of making our lives easier, taking a burden off our shoulders, and freeing up more time and mindshare for us to use as we see fit. As the current wave of automation technologies (AI, robotics, IoT,…

The Illusion of Value

This isn’t an article, it’s a rant. And like any good rant, I don’t even really know who I’m talking to, however, I know I’m talking to you. I’m talking to you, because you’re the one that needs to hear this. Odds are, that likely means that I’m talking to myself and I just need…

Robot-Centered Design

The future of user-centered design with a new kind of stakeholder You’re a designer. You create products, experiences, services, buildings, and more. Each time you begin the design process, you consider the multitude of touchpoints and features of your design and how they engage with your intended user. This is the logic of the Human-Centered…

The Future is Slowly Killing Me

Technology-Induced Depression and Other Follies of Our Modern Digital Age I was shaking uncontrollably. It started with my hands, and I remember holding them to my face, looking at my own flesh as though it were foreign. The tremor quickly traveled down my arms, towards my legs, and within seconds my whole body was vibrating…

Robotic Scapegoating

As a robotics guy, the most common question I get is also one of my least favourite: “Are robots going to take over the world?” I hear it with such frequency that I’ve developed the formulaic response, “only if I tell them to.” While my playful side loves uttering this phrase with a half-maniacal grin,…

The End of Purpose: Robotic Implications

The whole point of robotics is to make our lives easier. Designers aim to take steps out of someone’s day (drive your car, prep your meal, brush your teeth, etc.) and transfer that responsibility to a machine of some kind. In theory, this setup sounds ideal – the more mundane tasks we can transfer to…

Artificial Bosses and Robot Employees

5 Tips to Getting the Most Out of Your Robotic Workforce.  So you’ve made the leap to automating part or all of your workforce with robotic employees or “roploys.” Congratulations, you are at the forefront of the robotics movement and are leading the charge forward towards a new era of workplace operations and productivity. However,…

Reality Reprogramming and the Cognitive Operating System

Is reality truly as we perceive it? Or is our perceived world nothing but a vision of reality skewed by evolution to optimize our survival – even at the detriment of the truth? Are we looking at the world through rose-colored glasses, or, more extremely, through a filter that morphs our senses so greatly that…

IoT Inside of Me

Would you eat an IoT device if your airline told you to? Sure, we already put some fairly questionable things inside of our bodies on airplanes whenever we peel back the plastic wrap on those in-flight meals, but how much do you really trust your airline? British Airways (BA) made some buzz this past week…

Half Man, Half Machine, All Centaur

A robot is going to steal your job. AI is only a handful of years away from being smarter than you. The bot uprising is coming to enslave or kill us all. Deep learning is creating code that we can’t understand. The great digital divide is coming. Maybe. Or maybe there is another path forward….