Tom Gagnon

Replaced by an AI?

Discussion created by Tom Gagnon on Jan 16, 2017
Latest reply on Oct 17, 2019 by David Nelson

Is design automation-proof? (Open discussion instead of question, as I don't expect to arrive at only one answer to the question)


Design requires creativity, adaptation, mental flexibility, and sometimes persistence. Standards may apply, but that alone will not complete most designs, nor the entire workflow of a productive business. At least I like to think so. I'm so smart, and irreplaceable, and that inflates my ego. That is, I have my own preconceptions and blinders towards potential future changes. It doesn't mean I'm totally right.


I'm not talking of imminent change within years, but rather decades of continued innovation, if not more broadly within a lifetime. Capabilities of AI will increase. I read about new advancements or projections, large or small, at least every other week in IT news sites. Today's isolated anecdote: which has a fairly neutral conclusion. Sample quote without context: "some part of every job, whether it's in mining, design, or finance, can be automated." Neutral that is, compared to the more common hyperbolic extremes of fearmongering or futurism: either we're all doomed to immense social upheaval and revolt by most of our livelihoods being replaced by AI, or we're heading towards a dreamy future where everyone will be more productive, creative, and actualized because menial tasks are done for them (without any real acknowledgement of impact on contemporary laborers in the transition). The biased extremes are more 'newsworthy' or maybe just more effective clickbait depending on the audience-reinforcing outlet it's presented on. Reality will surely lie somewhere in the grey area between the extremes, including the likelihood that different economic classes will experience and view it differently based on perceived gains and losses. Seriously, all corporations view it as increase of profits by reducing workforce, without concern or responsibility for displaced human workers, and I don't foresee that changing.


Even the most advanced API's can automate some tasks, but not the whole act of design, at least as far as I understand it. An API surely is not an AI. It won't converse with a client to determine design intent, process that intent, and collaborate through review towards a complete manufacturing process.


Cynically, as long as bugs are common, I feel confident that an AI would fail as often. Then again, maybe an AI would be able to identify the issue faster and patch its operations instead of needing a workaround as we often do. Anything could happen, especially the unexpected.


Selfishly, I developed my design skills in part because I feel it is relatively future-proof and irreplaceable. I could be wrong. Here in the forums, we have users of all ages. Do young users fear this, or even see change within the time span of collegiate experience? Do older users expect any of this to happen within their professional lifetime (before retirement)? I welcome any thoughts on the matter.