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argodesign’s Mark Rolston on the “Dark Interactions” Invading Our Lives

Mark Rolston, founder and chief creative officer of argodesign, wrote for Co.Design on the dark interactions that are invading our lives.

With more and more connected devices we are creating thousands of human-computer interactions, however, we can only manage the ones that we know about. With developments in AI, facial recognition and body movement tracking, we are creating an increased number of unknown human-computer exchanges, or “dark interactions.” While the idea of bright interactions — day-to-day swipes, clicks, and texts — is familiar, dark interactions are those between people and machine that we don’t see, and may be unconscious of.

As we begin to see AI systems become more sophisticated, these interactions will be the primary way we interact with machines. Rolston wrote, “Smart systems will track our movements and preferences to provide personal services without the need for command and control interactions. Self-driving cars will show up at our front doors when we need them. Our refrigerators will stock foods we like and send back food we don’t. Dark interactions can help designers create a world in which computers serve up well-timed experiences.”

While our dark interactions have the ability to create personalization and efficiency in our lives, they also can be used against us. Rolston gave the example of Xinjiang, China, where the government tracks citizens’ internet usage and physical characteristics using AI powered cameras. The government then creates a digital library of each person’s online activity and real-world movements.

In the U.S. we are also being tracked in ways that we may not be aware of, whether that’s through location sensors in our phones or retail stores mapping our shopping patterns. Rolston believes that we should have access to and control our own the data.

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