2018Director perspective & Design stories for our times
Tasuku Mizuno
Director’s message

Making the most of mutual learning with the “other” of AI


Roles of AI in learning

Recent years have seen greater interest in two approaches to educational design for active learning. In one approach, ways of studying are expanded through e-learning and other applications of IT. In the other, learning opportunities are improved through the design of social environments, accounting for space, facilitation, and arrangements to serve students of all ages.

This year's award program also seems to have happened at a time when people began to realize how well artificial intelligence is suited to this active learning, now that AI-driven products and projects are materializing around us.

One award-winning tablet app called Qubena teaches math through adaptive learning. After AI is used to analyze areas where each student should improve, the app offers a personalized course of study. Another awarded mobile app, Japanese Language Training AI, provides a service to help people practice conversational Japanese. Thanks to a support AI developed for this purpose, the app not only helps users express themselves more freely, it gives tips on pronunciation and other ways to say things, for optimal communication. Both apps reflect a trend toward applying the information technology of AI in active learning.

Seeing opportunities to learn from the “other” of AI

As AI-driven products and services continue to spread, there is also greater interest in how AI can grasp things from perspectives we lack. According to thinker Kevin Kelly, this aspect of AI can define it not as an "artificial" intelligence but as an "alien" intelligence, which thinks About things differently, as if from another world. This view of AI invites us to use it not only as a form of information technology but also to provide an alternative, non-human perspective. Taking this view of AI makes us suspect that AI may be what teaches us the most, and that maximizing our learning from AI will be a priority in design.

From this standpoint, aibo has captivated many people. Each aibo keeps learning, through their connection to AI in the cloud. What impact will they have on us, or how will we influence each other? aibo itself interacts with owners, seemingly having wants and needs, as a creature that matures over time. One gets the distinct impression that especially with aibo, bonds may form between people and AI, in relationships that are interactive and meaningful. Although the outcome is yet to be seen, and further developments remain an unknown variable, if we can learn from aibo and grow together with it, this may be one indicator of our future relationships with AI.

As a more straightforward example, an NHK TV series has examined the AI perspective by asking an AI various questions About life in Japan to see what kinds of answers are offered, or if any can be offered at all. What is quite intriguing here is not evaluating the AI feedback (or lack thereof), after questions are posed and analyzed, but the approach of finding possibilities for cooperation with AI through this verification.

Through good design that explores these concepts in concrete ways, both award winners represent new attempts to emphasize positive outcomes from learning from AI, in a broad sense, and influencing each other.

Roles of design in AI

Clearly, cooperation between people and AI will be indispensable in addressing any of the significant issues faced by Japan, whether the low birthrate, graying society, declining population, or others. On the other hand, we can also view it as an advantage for Japan to take the initiative in dealing with the matter of AI relations.

In paving the way for AI in society, AI algorithm developers can be seen as designers, broadly defined. Careful UI and UX design is a facet of products and services that already apply AI, and professional designers sometimes contribute in these areas. But besides this, optimal applications of AI and our relationship with AI itself will probably be positioned as opportunities for good design. Here, a comprehensive approach to design will be essential, accounting for inherent risks of AI as well as ethics, rules, and laws on human dignity and the increasingly topical consideration of "well-being design."

Inclusivity is now a popular inspiration and approach in design, as we look for and address social issues through the eyes of those who are socially vulnerable or members of minority populations. In time, perhaps AI will also be considered an "other" through which to gain insight on social issues. People would benefit if collaborating and co-creating with AI provides active learning opportunities and serves as a source of expanded creativity. To me, this seems like a worthy goal for AI design.

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