Conversation and Choice

Conversation is highly complex. Even simple conversations such as deciding what to get for lunch are full of turns and complexity. The changing context, the emotions behind an utterance, and past experiences are just a few things that happen within a conversation between two people. And yet, this is something we generally do naturally, maybe even subconsciously. As a result, there is a sense of transparency in how we talk with other people. However, this transparency has not fully been gained with how people and AI converse. And this is where Dr. Paul Pangaro began his lecture and workshop.

Dr. Pangaro explains how today’s AI has caused a pandemic by impacting all of our lives daily and how AI is “often at odds with being human.” He explains that it is not the technology that is the problem but how we fashion it. To rectify this pandemic of AI, Dr. Pangaro proposes designers must start to make human-to-AI conversation more like human-to-human conversation: the idea being that “novelty and choice, transparency and conversation would become the new core principles of [human and AI] interaction.”

During Dr. Pangaro’s workshop, we took pieces of human-to-human conversations we had transcribed earlier and started dissecting them into goals and means and the ways to achieve them. It was simultaneously a fascinating and confusing process as one could argue for multiple ways to classify how a goal or means was achieved. These exercises highlight the various choices we are offered and choices that we make in the duration of a conversation with another person.

Choice is either limited or nonexistent when we currently converse with AI. But imagine how amazing it would be if this was not the case? If both humans and AI could offer and make multiple choices throughout a conversation, transparency between the two would be gained. It is exhilarating to think of all the positive outcomes this would bring. Although Ai is not at human to human conversation level yet, Dr. Pangaro’s lecture and workshop clarified how important it is for designers to start designing with this goal in mind.