Design and Artificial Intelligence: The 2023 Design in Tech Report

John Maeda
3 min readMar 15, 2023
Person standing and looking to a SXSW audience with hand raised and pull quote reads: “The hand, the mind, the heart working together can create extraordinary things.”
The hand, the mind, the heart working together can create extraordinary things. Even in this new age of AI. In fact, we’re likely to do even more to show machines what we humans can do.

Four Things That I’m Thinking About #DesignInTech

  • Designers tend to care about people as people. Instead of just as prospects or customers.
  • Design as a field has evolved to speak more machine, more scale, and more $$$s.
  • A lot of work has been done in the design world to birth a new “aesthetics of ethics.”
  • But it’s not mainstage because it doesn’t sound like “time or $$$s saved” or “new $$$s.”

Three Things I’ve Noticed In The Last 30 Days

In general I’ve noticed that referencing the past is quite helpful to understand the present. These three quotes help me do an SJ “look backwards to look forwards” daily yoga-style cognitive exercise to stay limber, humble, and hungry.

1) Simon’s Scissors

Early 1960s AI pioneer and Nobel Laureate in Economics, Herbert Simon, framed human intelligence as like two blades of a pair of scissors:

“Human rational behavior is shaped by a scissors whose blades are the structure of task environments and the computational capabilities of the actor.

Simon’s Scissors are an easy way to understand how Pre-trained Foundation Models work differently than the previous generation of AI systems. One blade is the model (COGNITION) and the other blade is the environment (CONTEXT). When the two blades rub against each other, they produce a kind of intelligence. Think of chatting, move your mouth open and closed, and that kind of looks like cut, cut, cutting … with a pair of scissors <smile>.

2) Weizenbaum’s Wisdom

My AI instructor from the 80s and inventor of the chatbot way back in 1967, Dr. Joseph Weizenbaum (1923–2008), waxed critically in the intro to “Computer Power and Human Reason: From Judgment To Calculation” (1976) about his invention:

“I knew of course that people form all sorts of emotional bonds to machines, for example, to musical instruments, motorcycles, and cars. And I knew from long experience that the strong emotional ties many programmers have to their computers are often formed after…

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John Maeda

John Maeda: Technologist and product experience leader that bridges business, engineering, design via working inclusively. Currently VP Design and A.I. at MSFT.