Data-Driven Leadership and Careers

What’s Different About Today’s AI?

Hint: today’s AI revolution isn’t really about AI… it’s about UX

Cassie Kozyrkov
3 min readApr 20, 2023

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Long before the generative AI art apps and chatbots splashed their way onto the tech scene, artificial intelligence was powering your online experiences and optimizing many of the businesses you enjoy offline. AI was everywhere, but it was hidden in plain sight as a subtle, unobtrusive component in software applications. If you didn’t know how to look for the signs, it was easy to miss them. The subtlety was built-in — on purpose! — by user experience (UX) designers following a very intentional strategy.

AI was traditionally a subtle, unobtrusive component in software applications.

It all stemmed from a pervasive product philosophy of seamlessness. User experience (UX) designers of the previous decade worked very hard to create an online experience where good things simply happen and you, the user, needn’t be bothered with details about what’s going on behind the scenes. To them, having a nontechnical user notice the AI component would be as embarrassing as drawing that user’s attention to issues of JavaScript versus HTML. Don’t know what those are even though you spend much of your life online? Exactly. As a user, you don’t need to know about that. Everything just works. The AI components were designed with that same philosophy in mind.

Last decade’s user experience (UX) design philosophy for AI prioritized seamless, reliable solutions with minimal user tinkering.

Image modified from Pixabay.

What’s happening today is a radical pivot in product philosophy; suddenly, the user is encouraged to interact directly with an AI component that’s designed for usefulness rather than seamless correctness.

That’s right. Behind the scenes, UX designers are permitting themselves to serve you an unprecedented user interaction: an AI system that’s allowed to serve garbage… as long as it’s useful garbage.

Behind the scenes, UX designers are permitting themselves to serve you an unprecedented…

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Cassie Kozyrkov

Chief Decision Scientist, Google. ❤️ Stats, ML/AI, data, puns, art, theatre, decision science. All views are my own. twitter.com/quaesita