Note — Nov 29, 2020

R2D2 as a Model for AI Collaboration

Excellent piece by Alexis Lloyd on AI / automation / bots / robots, how we design relationships with them, and the three archetypes she identified for different approaches to designing machine intelligence; C3PO, Iron Man, & R2D2. Notable ideas include an axis where as the “distance between the person and technology increases, you start to get deeper into questions of relationships and communication.” Lloyd’s hypothesis that the anthropomorphic model for robots is a skeuomorph because “we haven’t developed new constructs for machine intelligence yet.” (I love that!) And I always tended to consider R2D2 weird since it wasn’t designed with voice but here she frames it as having its own language, “he doesn’t try to emulate human language; he converses in a way that is expressive to humans, but native to his own mechanic processes.”

Augmentation and collaboration with algorithms and various machines is definitely a topic to keep close attention to and this piece gives a useful way to interpret them.

We need to stop trying to make machines be like people and find some more interesting constructs for how to think about these entities. […]

It’s fascinating to watch how prosthetic technologies often begin as assistive, as adaptations for disability, and then get repurposed (and remarketed) as augmentation. […]

[W]hen we get to the end of the spectrum where the machine is not only separate from the self but also has agency — it has ways of learning and rubrics for making its own decisions. […]

As we design interactions with these kinds of machine intelligences, what are their versions of R2D2’s language? What expressions feel native to their processes? What unique insights can we gain from the computational gaze? […]

Let’s not let the future of AI be weird customer service bots and creepy uncanny-valley humanoids. Those are the things people make because they don’t have the new mental models in place yet. They are the skeuomorphs for AI; they are the radio scripts we’re reading into television cameras.