The challenges and ethics of AI in product design

Written by Andy Curry, Managing Director, LION+MASON

The rise of AI across all industries has been a source of both excitement about the potential opportunities, and serious concerns related to the risks and challenges it might pose. 

As a Product Design and User Experience consultant I want to think here about the possibilities of how AI could impact and enhance user experience. 

As exciting as these new technologies might be, such discussion needs to include a frank assessment of the potential challenges and ethical implications of using AI.

As with any new product or service design, researching and understanding the current wider experience and designing with that insight in mind is the key to success.

I have tried to distill this down to four considerations that need to be taken into account – and mitigated for. 


Impact on wider processes

When implementing AI, it is important to consider how it will impact the wider service or process. Changes that may seem positive at one stage can have negative downstream effects.

For example, a recent CNN Business article reported on the challenges faced by workers when AI systems are incorporated into their workflows. Employees reported being placed under extra strain and increased workloads to keep up with AI-generated processes and outputs.

These issues arose because management introduced these processes with little understanding of the ramifications or on-the-ground experience. Without grounding any implementation or ideation around AI in actual user understanding and intelligence, there are risks and issues going un-planned for.

To avoid these problems, it is essential to involve employees and workers in the planning and implementation of AI solutions. This will help to ensure that the solutions are designed in a way that minimises disruption and maximises benefits.


User perception and trust

Organisations need to understand how users will perceive and react to AI tools.

Some users may be receptive and excited about AI, while others may be suspicious or threatened. It is important to understand these different reactions so that organisations can design AI tools that are user-friendly and trustworthy.

AI systems cannot always explain their reasoning behind decisions. If users do not understand why an AI system made a certain decision, they may feel that they are being treated unfairly. This can lead to distrust of the system and a reluctance to use it.

Organisations should design AI tools that are transparent and explainable. This will help to build trust between users and AI systems and encourage wider adoption of AI-powered solutions.


Data inaccuracies and misinformation

AI models are only as good as the data they are trained on. If the data is inaccurate, the model will produce inaccurate results.

There are a number of factors that can contribute to inaccurate AI-generated information, including using wrong on poorly-cleansed data, using the wrong AI model or interpreting results incorrectly.

In addition, AI models can sometimes generate “AI hallucinations,” which are made-up facts that are presented as if they are true. This can happen when the model lacks knowledge of a certain topic and gives a response anyway with information that is not supported by facts.

It is important to be aware of the potential for inaccurate AI-generated information and to take steps to mitigate the risk. 

As such, consider how you verify the information before using it.

The additional verification of AI-generated information can have a significant impact on existing employees and processes. This is something that organisations need to plan for and take into account when implementing AI solutions.


Ethical considerations

There are many more challenging ethical areas we need seriously consider in developing new AI products or services including:

  • Potential bias
  • Manipulating user behaviour
  • Spread misinformation

It is important to be aware of the potential for AI to be used to manipulate or exploit users. Designers should consider the ways AI could be used unethically, such as promoting addictive behaviours or targeting vulnerable users.

We must recognise these biases and take steps to ensure that AI tools are designed ethically and inclusively.

In conclusion, the rush to seize the new opportunities offered by AI tech, it’s often all too easy to forget about the challenges and implications. AI has the potential to revolutionise the field of product design by providing insights, automating tasks, and enhancing user experiences. 

However, it is vital for designers to consider the challenges and ethical implications and limitations of AI to ensure that it is used responsibly and effectively.

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