Episode 7: A Conversation with Jared Ficklin

In this episode, Byron and Jared talk about rights for machines, empathy, ethics, singularity, designing AI experiences, transparency, and a return to the Victorian era.



Jared Ficklin is a designer and technologist with two decades experience creating products and visions for major companies. Jared designs with technology and has a passion for innovative or unique interaction models especially those involving interesting inputs and outputs like touch, multi-touch, voice, gesture, sensing and projection. His philosophy is "Think by Making, Deliver by Demo" and employs user experience simulation as a method for quickly bringing products to life and as a method for finding new experiences when applying innovative technologies. He speaks internationally as a creative technologist and futurist.


Byron Reese: This is Voices in AI, brought to you by Gigaom. I’m Byron Reese. Today, our guest is Jared Ficklin. He is a partner and Lead Creative Technologist at argodesign.

In addition, he has a wide range of other interests. He gave a well-received mainstage talk at TED about how to visualize music with fire. He co-created a mass transit system called The Wire. He co-designed and created a skate park. For a long while, he designed the highly-interactive, famous South by Southwest (SXSW) opening parties which hosted thousands and thousands of people each year.

Welcome to the show, Jared.

Jared Ficklin: Thank you for having me.

I’ve got to start off with my first and favorite question: What is artificial intelligence?

Well, I think of it in the very mechanical way of, that it is a machine intelligence that has reached a point of sentience. But I think it is just a broad umbrella where we kind of apply it to any case where the computerization is attempting to solve problems with human-like thoughts or strategies.

Well, let’s split that into two halves, because there was an aspirational half of sentience, and then there was a practical half. Let’s start with the practical half. When it tries to solve problems that a person can solve, would you include a sprinkler that comes on when your lawn is dry as being an artificial intelligence? Because I don’t have to keep track of when my lawn is dry; the sprinkler system does.