How service design eats the World

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Technology and service design is shaping our society and culture and the driving force of the future does not only include Machine Learning (ML) or the Internet of Things (IoT), but the (hidden) automation of technologies powering our decisions and influencing social cohesion.

Though it’s long been on the fringe of my awareness, attending the Service Lab London Meetup event was a paradigm shift for me.
The keynote talkISSA TRAP: the future isn’t just a connected fridge” explored the relationship between design and ethics and Speakers were Alex Fefegha and Akil Benjamin from Comuzi Lab @comuzi_lab.

A key challenge is the issue of how to design services ethically and contribute to the kind of future we want to build. It’s important to understand how automated decision are applied, because this has been affected by the definition of ethics applied and the unconscious bias of the designers.

Ethics isn’t a monolithic thing.. when one culture may consider something good, it may be harmful in another culture” Alex Fefegha

Another of the key challenges faced today by service designers, is managing user needs and stakeholders’ requirements which may be at odds with each other. This has an implication on how to design services, as every design decision made has a significant impact on the quality of people’s lives.

Comuzi Lab service design

CASE STUDY by Comuzi Lab
Chatbots are being called THE next interface for communicating with young people. But there are still big questions around who owns the data shared with a chatbot and how chatbots handle privacy.

So Project by IF @projectsbyif and Comuzi worked together to answer the question: How can we expose the seams of a mental health chatbot to make its actions explainable?

Akil Benjamin talked through research @comuzi_lab did with @projectsbyif on working with young people on mental health chatbot. They asked young people whether they knew their mental model?”

Methodology: How much control to give the user when the purpose of the app is to learn from them? @comuzi_lab included a No Answer option for questions. Meeting goal of making AI more transparent and something that gives them agency.

Result: @comuzi_lab found out that theyoung people saw mental health chatbots as a tool not a friend.”

Recommendation: It’s important to build ethics into design at every stage and push for more critique and transparency in application of Artificial Intelligence to automate products.

The event set me thinking about service design as an industry and a profession. If you’re doing service design, or asking teams to do service design, there should be some simple steps taken to proactively anticipate your service’s impact on society.

Aside from meeting user needs matters, think about the wider impact of your service on society’s future and the ethical implications.

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