An Artificial Intelligence Reading List for 2016

When I was an undergrad my favorite course was Introduction to AI, taught by Ira Pohl. When I graduated, I went to work in the AI department at BBN. I was working on, then state-or-the-art, projects involving machine learning, genetic algorithms, and expert systems.

But that work, in the 80s, the end of a boom period for AI, felt very theoretical and researchy/experimental. The field was trying to develop real-world applications with technology and approaches that were in their infancy and sometimes a little rickety. I decided to move on and explore the creative intersections of design and technology.

Cut to today, early-2016, and suddenly AI is popping up everywhere. The field has transformed and, with recent breakthroughs, there is a real sense that AI is about to lead the next big technology transformation. Chris Dixon, in his post What’s Next in Computing? argues that this change will be as significant as the shifts that occurred after the introduction of the PC, the Internet, and Mobile.

Source: What’s Next in Computing?
Source: What’s Next in Computing?

As a designer I’m especially interested in how, from a user-centered mindset, we can start developing new applications for these next-generation game-changing technology. But I’m also cautious — we should not take these new technologies as a given. They are not without the bias of those that are developing them. And it’s our responsibility to bring other voices and communities into the conversation of what these technologies should become and how they should be used.

As a start I’ve been collecting articles about emerging AI-related technologies, their applications, and the role of design as part of the conversation. I figured I’d share a handful here that stood out. It’s a sort-of AI Reading List for Designers…

What’s Next in Computing?
As I mentioned above, this is a great piece that gives the background of previous computing eras, and then outlines new technologies that may have the biggest impact in the “next” era.

Assisted Freehand Drawing (2011)
Assisted Freehand Drawing (2011)

CreativeAI: On the Democratisation & Escalation of Creativity — Chapter 01
This is an epic post on how AI can raise the human potential for creativity. With a history of what’s been done before, examples of Assisted and Generative creation, and framing of principles to support such creativity, this post is an absolute must-read.


Design and Science
This article, in the new (and really fantastic) Journal of Design and Science from the MIT Media Lab, promotes the need for “antidisciplinary” work — of “working in spaces that simply do not fit into any existing academic discipline.” As part of this, bringing together Design and Science is a powerful way to tackle wicked problems, and to advance white-space fields in non-traditional ways.

Designing for AI
An interesting discussion on how existing systems are based on a “model view controller” framework, and that the complex systems built on AI will need a new design approach. Related, and also by Nitzan Hermon, is Why Should Designers Care About AI? where he starts with “We don’t know what designing for AI will look like — but we do know that It will be different in just about every way from what we’re used to.”

The Promise of Artificial Intelligence Unfolds in Small Steps and Start-Up Lessons From the Once-Again Hot Field of A.I.
These two New York Times articles get into the real-world development of AI in business, and how future visions translate into current applications for business startups.

Artificial Intelligence in Special Education
A case study of using AI in therapies for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Startup Digest’s AI Reading List
A great set of additional articles to read on AI — and an inspiration for this post! One item, the Quora page on What AI products can we expect by 2020?, has some really interesting thoughts.

The Sadness and Beauty of Watching Google’s AI Play Go
With all the press this week on Google’s AlphaGo AI Go player, this is a nice article that talks about the power and the mystery of the machine learning technologies.

What World Are We Building?
AI and big-data systems “learn the biases in our society, and they spit them back out at us.” What can we do to be more intentional about what we create?

The Doomsday Invention
“Will artificial intelligence bring us utopia or destruction?” I’m really fond of this idea within the piece:

The book begins with an “unfinished” fable about a flock of sparrows that decide to raise an owl to protect and advise them. They go looking for an owl egg to steal and bring back to their tree, but, because they believe their search will be so difficult, they postpone studying how to domesticate owls until they succeed. Bostrom concludes, “It is not known how the story ends.”

The parable is his way of introducing the book’s core question: Will an A.I., if realized, use its vast capability in a way that is beyond human control?

Ok. That’s it for now. Stay tuned for updates. And take a look at my Pinterest page where I’ll continue to collect AI links.