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People-Centered AI: Dr. Emily Corrigan-Kavanagh's Vision and the Design By Zen Philosophy

Updated: Mar 9

People-Centered AI: Insights from Dr. Emily Corrigan-Kavanagh

Doctor Emily Corrigan-Kavanagh gave an insightful talk published on the TEDx channel in June 2022. The discussion delved into the basics of well-being utility functions with AI, especially using sound for sensor identification and predicting potential outcomes.

Table of Contents

  1. People-Centered AI: Insights from Dr. Emily Corrigan-Kavanagh

  2. AI for Well-being: Key Insights Aligning with Design By Zen

  3. Design By Zen Philosophy: Embracing People-Centered AI

  4. Dr. Emily Corrigan-Kavanagh's Deep Dive into AI for Well-being

  5. Reflecting on the Importance of People-Centered AI and the Design By Zen Philosophy

Key Points Resonating with Design By Zen Philosophy

Dr. Emily emphasized the necessity of focusing on the people interacting with AI systems. Her approach promotes the idea of designing AI specifically for well-being, ensuring people are at the core of all AI-driven products and services. This idea aligns seamlessly with the Design By Zen philosophy.

Highlighted Quotes:

  • "We need to focus on the people that will interact with the AI system to create people-centered AI."

  • "There exists great potential for design experts and AI experts to work together to create people-centered AI."

  • "People said that this new technology could help you sleep or relax more at home but could also improve about collaborative and reflective work in the office place.

AI's Impact on Well-being

The journey towards emphasising well-being through technology has evolved over the years. Starting in 2012 with the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquakes, the path moved towards incorporating wearable bands in 2018. The importance grew during the Covid-19 lockdowns in NZ, especially considering the elderly population.

AI's introduction to public awareness in late 2022 changed the dynamic even further. Initiatives like the ADA app in 2019, assisted by AI for healthcare, showcased the potential of AI in the medical domain.

ChatGPT, Stable Diffusion, and Mid Journey image generators have set public expectations. With Microsoft introducing AI to the corporate domain with Bing and the 365 Suite enhancements in Q1 2023, the emphasis on well-being has never been clearer.

SHE Zen AI stands as a testament to this journey, emphasizing well-being and reflecting the daily mantras of "Am I ok?" and "how will I know?" as one progresses in age or interacts in any simulated, metaverse, or AI-driven environment.

Dr. Corrigan-Kavanagh's Full Transcript

The complete transcript of Dr. Emily's talk, as presented in the YouTube video, is given below:

Dr. Corrigan-Kavanagh's transcript of YouTube video, :

"Artificial intelligence, or AI is changing our world. Alexa can recognize your speech, Facebook can recognize the faces of your friends, and machines are beginning to help us diagnose, but how can we get AI to do what we wanted to do? How can we design AI for well-being?

Well, AI is smart, but it's not very clever; we can show it lots of examples of things, and it can become quite good at recognizing similar things such as birds, trees dogs, at least most of the time if we showed lots of examples of similar things through what's called training data it can learn to recognize patterns and make predictions such as predict future weather, the progression of diseases, the language of spoken speech, sometimes even better than people can, but there is a catch AI is only as good as the data that it's trained on.

Now training data basically consists of a large data set that's used to teach AI systems how to recognize patterns and make predictions about the things that we've just discussed; training data can consist of text, images, video, and this is labelled to make it recognizable and understandable to the machine through this training data.

AI can be given the answers to a given problem by including corresponding labels to the answers within the data set, such as what a bird looks like or how a disease might progress.

So with the right data, it works great but with the wrong data, we can end up with a lot of problems; for example, the speech recognizer in Alexa might never understand my voice commands if it had only been trained on data containing without containing Irish accents. Someone could be rejected from a loan because their surname is spelled differently to the names used in the training data. Or a facial recognition system might not recognize faces of a certain skin color if it had only been trained on images containing white or black faces, so we need to challenge how AI is designed rather than focusing on the data that interacts with the AI system that will interact with the people.

We need to focus on the people that will interact with the AI system to create people-centered AI.

I, therefore, propose a new approach to designing AI for well-being called essentially designing AI for well-being to put people at the heart of new products services supported by AI systems. Now designers and design researchers have been working for some time to put people at the heart of new of new products, services and architectural designs.

So why not AI? There exists great potential for design experts and AI experts to work together to create people-centered AI.

As a design researcher I've been working alongside design experts to develop future AI for sound technologies, particularly those for the home and workplace. Before we went out and gathered any data, I asked people how should we develop future AI for sound technologies.

So what did people say about future AI for sound technologies? Should they be confined or reduce mechanical noise, such as the sound of heavy machinery on building sites or noisy appliances in the home -think of blenders & drills. Future AI for sound technologies should remove unwanted sounds from residential areas, such as the sound of heavy traffic or the sound of multiple dogs barking, for example, future. AI for sound technologies should enhance or include pleasant sounds, things like the sound of nature rustling of leaves, bird songs, or running water.

People said that this new technology could help you sleep or relax more at home but could also improve about collaborative and reflective work in the office place. Now people have their own ideas about how this future technology should be shaped.

And one such idea was to create an AI system that could recognize employees' emotions and could then suggest personalized listening experiences to either enhance or suit their moods.

Another idea was to create a network of sound sensors in residential areas that would capture and record emerging sounds as they as they happened and it would allow local residents to submit live feedback about how they felt about those sounds. That feedback could then be used towards government regulation of planning and development but also construction sounds to reduce noise annoyance to local residents.

Now all we don't yet know how we will create these future technologies we now understand the needs that underpin them and we're beginning to understand the types of data we will need to gather in order to create these future technologies. This is just the beginning of designing AI for well-being; we still need to find new and innovative ways to engage people throughout the design process of these new ai systems so that they're created with their needs and well-being in mind AI is changing our world but designing ai for well-being will positively transform it.

Thank you" end quote


AI's potential in shaping well-being is undeniable. As Dr. Corrigan-Kavanagh's talk suggests, it's imperative to create AI systems that are centred around people. The alignment of her philosophy with Design By Zen's vision underscores the importance of well-being in the ever-evolving world of AI.

References & Citations:

  • Dr. Emily Corrigan-Kavanagh's TEDx talk, June 2022

  • SHE Zen AI research papers and documents


Author Bio:

David W. Harvey, CEO of Design By Zen, merges 42 years of IT and high-tech design expertise with groundbreaking innovation. Inventor of the DBZ Comfort Index, Holistic Objectives algorithm, and the pioneering Social Harmony Ecosystem or Engine -SHE Zen AI architecture, David's work also includes the world's first intelligent earthquake table -EQ1. Holder of multiple international patents, his professional excellence parallels a fervent interest in exotic cars & simulation engineering. Off-screen, David finds balance in cultivating a Zen garden, reflecting his philosophy of harmony in technology and life through art.


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