A science-fiction view on decision-making powered by artificial intelligence

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I am a great fan of SF movies and stories, because they are a great inspiration to the work I am doing. They tend to create a framework for a possible future context, hinting to ways people will work. One of the new masterpieces is the British Netflix series Black Mirror. The concept is quite simple: we fast forward into a future where technology is so technically advanced that people do not know what is virtual or real anymore. Obviously, this has a number of advantages and traps – as is the case in most science fiction series. For example, people can misuse technology to compensate for real social skills like leadership.

In the latest episode that I saw, called ‘Hang the DJ’, a man and a woman are signed up to a digital companion that helps them find their perfect partner. Call it an AI-powered version of Tinder. The system couples the pair, and tells them how long their relationship will last. The ultimate goal is for the system to collect enough data to find the perfect match – call it ‘true love’. I will not spoil the plot but the ending is great.

What the story brilliantly conveys, is how people are relying on Tinder and Siri, Alexa or any artificial intelligence system to make choices at certain times. They can base these choices by simulating the different scenarios. The closer the virtual and real characters match, the better the simulation becomes. In this way, time and space become irrelevant: people can literally fast-forward learning and create different outcome scenarios, set up a scoring board and pick the best scenario.

Now design thinking and lean innovation are exactly about creation opportunities and best outcomes. The problem of course is that there is time needed to design and prototype different scenarios. Decision-taking often comes down to intuition or experience of the people involved. But what if you want to explore places you have never been before? Really step outside of your comfort zone? Today, you will be reluctant to take the risk. We only trust what we know, right? But wouldn’t it be great if you could simulate these ‘unsafe’ options inside a game and connect with other minds to build an expert system that really thinks outside of your knowledge field? This will let you explore every scenario in a very fast way, allowing you to choose the path that best suits your expected outcome. In other words, you simulate every possible decision upfront so you can always follow the one that brings you closest to your goal. I can imagine that you will often be surprised which option this is – maybe the one you least trusted. This brings a whole new factor into the game of innovation.

In the Black Mirror episode, the AI-powered version of Tinder can find a partner match with a certainty of 99.8%. Isn’t this what we want for all our decision-taking?

About the author

Guy Van Wijmeersch

Guy Van Wijmeersch is Barco's Director Innovation & Design Thinking. He started with Barco in 1992 and held industrial designer and design director positions in Belgium, Germany and the USA. Guy holds a master degree in product design (Artesis University College of Antwerp) and a postgraduate degree of product design from University of Irvine, California, USA. He also holds a master degree in B2B Marketing, and is known for his innovation-centric thinking.

Over the last 15 years, he has been involved in several global signature key projects in control rooms and meeting rooms at Reliance, Saudi Aramco, Dubai Police, Telecom South Africa, RWE, National Grid, Airtel, China Rail, etc. After working for Barco in California, USA and Germany, he is now again based in Belgium.

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