Every revolution promises departure and great change. Rarely does a clearly structured process go along with it. And when the whole thing calms down a bit, the dust settles, then it’s time to consolidate the new status. So also, in terms of AI. Polemically one could say: »Narrow AI is the storming of the Bastille, while Broad AI will be the October Revolution – in between the time has come to create some order.«

The relationship between man and machine has changed massively in the last 20 years. Today we carry a high-performance computer almost non-stop with us. Design made this possible by making the interface between humans and machines usable and desirable. In the future, this interaction will be essential: for society, the ecosystem, and the economy. Therefore, it makes sense to divide human-machine collaboration (as suggested by my colleague Kevin McCullagh, Founder Product Strategy Consulting Plan) into five types, and to define appropriate requirements, processes and methods in terms of design.

The 5 types of collaboration


The user transfers very concrete work steps and subroutines to the machine. No further support from humans is needed. This type we find today in factory robots or in certain functions in the car, such as a traffic jam assistant. The role of the design lies in the understandable and simple transfer of the task to the AI as well as in the meaning of outsourcing.


Here, fully automated work and decision-making processes, such as autopilot, are only monitored by users. The machine has to communicate relevant information to humans and in case of problems or danger ask people to react. Design defines the relationship between supervision and the actual intervention in case of emergency, whereby it should fundamentally support the individual in his ability to act. Because of automation, we will exercise certain skills so seldom that we may not be able to control them sufficiently well in the required case.


The interaction between humans and robots in the same room and at the same time requires its own rules. So, machines have to recognize human intentions and needs and automatically respond to them. At the same time, in order to work effectively, they need to make sense of the shared space. A delivery robot must already be able to trust today that it will not maliciously obstruct its work. In the future, designers will have to think empathically also in the sense of robots. Machines will become part of the stakeholder landscape and design will make even more highly complex service systems meaningful.


Mankind is mentally and/or physically enabled by machines to do their own actions and that is many times faster, easier, and better. Here AI automatically recognizes our goals and preferences and helps to gain the users entirely new capabilities. The prosthetic is the first field of action, but in the future, the imagination will hardly be limited. Perhaps the biggest field of our design activities: creative and solution-oriented thinking is needed to confront the challenges of our time with entirely new capabilities while meeting people’s needs and desires.


This is the most intimate kind of collaboration and, consequently, works only on reciprocity. For example, a person’s strategic thinking is maintained in order to remain master of his own personality. The tactical options, however, are determined by the machine. Fueled by the achievements in biotechnology, we must be aware that this is the road to transhumanism. At this point, the current role of design lies in experiencing future scenarios, so that people can make conscious and ethical decisions.

It is not yet clear how many tasks people and machines conquer together. But design is needed everywhere: going beyond the external design of an object towards the purposeful examination of the function of and interaction with human-machine interfaces.

The design will be fundamental to making collaboration feasible, meaningful, and desirable. The subdivision of human-machine interaction in five ways will also help us in design theory to establish new processes and create a new awareness of design ethics. Because in the end, it’s not about making friends. But clearly about where and how meaning is created.

First published by PAGE online in German.

Karel Golta

Karel J. Golta

CEO + Founder

Karel, CEO and founder of INDEED, is Swiss but far from being neutral. When he's not planning "the next big thing" with clients, you can controversially discuss with him the value of design.

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