Singularity and the potential impact on UX design principles

August 1, 2018

The bold future of UX: How new tech will shape the industry

Part 1  Singularity and the potential impact on UX design principles

The times they are a-changin’. I know it’s a corny, overused refrain but I don’t think that it has ever been truer. Technology, as well as its impact on society, is advancing at a rapid pace, and that pace is only expected to accelerate.

Futurologist Ray Kurzweil believes that we are soon approaching a point where the computing power of tech exceeds the computing power of people. This “Singularity”, as it is called, will be fueled by a variety of emerging technologies, including artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, and nanotechnology, to name a few.

Once this Singularity hits, Kurzweil and other similarly-minded theorists believe that life will be unrecognizable to what we know today. He compares the difficulty of describing this post-Singularity society to someone today as being just as difficult as describing to a caveman how different life will be with bronze tools and agriculture.

Bringing us back to the present, how does this relate to UX?

My thoughts around this weird unknowable world of the future have started to stray toward design. Let’s think about AI and (by extension) robots. These two technologies have the potential to completely flip the paradigm of usability and user experience. The user should not have to learn how to use AI. AI is supposed to be the one learning: learning our habits and routines and learning what actions it should take in response to what’s happening around it. In UX research terminology, the user has become the stimuli and the stimuli has become the user. That is, the human is now the stimuli that the technology is learning to react and respond to.

But if you buy into the whole notion of Kurzweil’s Singularity, how do you design for a future that is (predicted to be) wildly different than anything we’ve ever known or could fathom? How can a UX designer implement traditional usability principles, such as effectiveness, efficiency, and satisfaction, or are these principles going to become a relic and left by the wayside as radically different interaction models emerge?

I’m going to tackle some of these questions in future posts in this series. Next topic: Artificial Intelligence!

What are your thoughts on all of this? Comment below and let’s get a dialogue started!

This blog post is the first of a series, The bold future of UX: How new tech will shape the industry, that will discuss future technologies and some of the issues and challenges that will face the user and the UX community.