Artificial Intelligence is one of those subjects where the principle is easy to comprehend, but the implications can be difficult to understand. The reasons are fairly obvious. The AI field is still in its relative infancy. There is as much discovery going on at any given time as there are working models. Since computers can already perform some tasks better than humans, can they replace designers as well?
What is AI?
Computers are, at their most basic, calculation engines. They are able to do logical comparisons by way of mathematical constructs. Since these comparisons can be arranged in a sequence, they are capable of following the instructions of a programmer.
Artificial intelligence uses this ability to attempt to combine pattern recognition and successful results into a system that recognizes positive outcomes and tries to improve.
What is Design?
The challenge for such a mechanism in attempting to mimic human creativity is recognizing success. What is a good design? There isn’t really an accurate answer to that question, because a graphic designer doesn’t rely on objective criteria like a math problem. Art is an expression of emotion and is often evaluated in an emotional context. Can AI be emotional? Not by any contemporary definition.
Can Design and AI Combine?
All that said, there are some objective and consistent features of good design. Things like symmetry, colour balance, recognisable features and so forth can be “solved for” mathematically, provided steps are taken ahead of time to define the problem space and the rules the computer or computers will follow. In this manner, the combination of a human and an AI-equipped machine might be able to produce results better than either could alone.
This synthesis model has been successful in many other applications already. Airline pilots use autopilot facilities all the time. Doctors make use of precision equipment that is guided by a form of artificial intelligence, and even soldiers are using very capable AI on the battlefield to track and adapt to changing combat conditions.
Is AI a Replacement?
This is likely a conversation that will continue for some time. Human beings can build machines capable of doing things they cannot accomplish themselves. But at the same time, human engineers recognize the limits of their tools and their materials. Building an “emotion machine” will probably remain out of reach for the time being, so the most likely use for artificial intelligence will probably be combining it with a human designer as a powerful tool for evaluating large volumes of work quickly.
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