Speculation, Friction, and Fire

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A real-time storytelling game about using speculation and friction to question the design and use of AI

YAML Idea

Here's an idea about a real-time storytelling game in the intersection of Science Fiction, Future Studies, and present-day AI systems.

Speculative Everything is a book I came across which is a collection of projects in the field of speculative and critical design. The general idea is that rather than problem solving, we want "to use design as a means of speculating how things could be—speculative design. This form of design thrives on imagination and aims to open up new perspectives on what are sometimes called wicked problems, to create spaces for discussion and debate about alternative ways of being, and to inspire and encourage people’s imaginations to flow freely. Design speculations can act as a catalyst for collectively redefining our relationship to reality." [1]

Friction is something I think about a lot because of the nature of my work which has to do with investigating the implications of AI. Contrary to the common narrative, I've started thinking of friction of something that can be useful and productive. Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing speaks about the friction between dynamic groups that can ultimately bring regeneration. Similarly, in nature, friction makes fire and fire can be destructive but it can also contribute to the healing of diverse ecosystems. I am really curious about useful friction that can inform the design of real world technology today (not in the future). [2]

A goal for the game I'm thinking about is to inspire and co-create an alternative future where we move beyond the experience of blindly taking part in a frictionless world enabled by technology through collective critical thinking and questioning “What is the future we want?”.

I want to run an experiment where a group of us gets together to collectively play this out and see what could emerge. Would you be interested? Do you have any thoughts and feedback about the idea?

Eternally grateful for your help!!

Adding the links to references here as I wasn't able to figure out how to embed links in my post 😂 [1] Speculative Everything: http://dunneandraby.co.uk/content/bydandr/13/0 [2] Anna Tsing has a fascinating book called Friction! See an interview with her about it here: https://www.eurozine.com/zones-of-friction/



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// "to use design as a means of speculating how things could be" — speculative design

Ok. Speculation in innovation is common: when writing books, making movies, etc.

// "in nature, friction makes fire and fire can be destructive but it can also [..] regenerative"

Ok. There's another saying -- "you can't cook omelet without breaking the eggs."

So, a game of imagining future stories for humanity, attempting to challenge the norms? However, what would be the score of such game, and how would this scale? You're mentioning "spaces for discussions, where imagination flows freely" -- what kind of requirements would there be? Is this idea more of a social pattern, or a product, like perhaps, something like "ClubHouse", but more towards exploring the humanity's futures?

// I want to run an experiment where a group of us gets together to collectively play this out and see what could emerge. Would you be interested? Do you have any thoughts and feedback about the idea?

Surely, I love imaginative and critical discussions. We may think of some time for an ad-hoc meeting.



    :  -- 
    : bobi.rakova
    :  -- 
    

Mindey,

Hey [bobi.rakova], so good to see your idea entering wider worlds! As we spoke about it on Signal, I'll try to share what we discussed so far! And add some more feedback.

It seems that this idea is about:

Innovating on a design method how AIs are designed:

  • Including "friction, pause, reflection, observation" stages in the design process. Contrary to current design techniques that aim to produce solutions faster, which serves mainly the business goals and not alwaysconnect to the higher needs of the users (like wellbeing, mindfulness, wise decision making, development of critical thinking).

  • Gamifying the design process with elements taken from Speculative Fiction worlds.

  • Using "fire" as a metaphor in the game, as a symbol of transformation (in a creative process fire means expressing oneself through problem solving and healing, in dialogue fire means the energy and mixing diverse forces - thoughts).

  • Making AI design process participatory ("designed with" end users and not "for"), where users involve in a real-time storytelling game as you say, where participants explore multiple user journeys through play.

Do you know the Time Well Spent movement sparked by Tristan Harris? Maybe they'd be interested to test this idea.

This idea also relates to what I discussed with [Mindey] - about a new category of technology called ThinkTech - where technology is designed not for addiction and mindless fast consumption of content but slow interaction, critucal thinking, meaningful dialogue.

Let's brainmelt all! :D

-

P.S. links are in Markdown :) here are the steps how to add a link



    :  -- 
    : bobi.rakova
    :  -- 
    

Ruta,

Thank you Mindey and Ruta for the very thoughtful responses!!

What would be the score of such a game, and how would this scale? - Currently, the way I'm thinking about it is that the goal of each iteration of the game is for the participants to co-create a set of unique stories. The game mechanics is based on the choose your own adventure children's book series (which was my favorite thing in the world growing up). However, here the game mechanics is (1) also utilizing the concept of backcasting from the field of Future Studies and (2) there's a collective element to it - we, as the participants in this specific iteration of the game, are co-creating a unique set of speculative scenarios about how do we move from the present to an alternative future. I'm wondering how we could better leverage the collective aspect of multiple people doing this critical thinking exercise together?

I don't think this will be a product but more like a social game to do with a group of people (maybe a card game too?). It doesn't necessarily require technology, however, it is a game about technology - inspiring critical reflections and alternative worldviews. 

I think that the idea requires a manifesto ... I'm thinking of it more like a social movement than a game that entertains or makes money. I still have no idea what the manifesto will be about, but I think it will have to set the stage about - why are we doing this? what is the purpose of a specific iteration of the game? what are the shared values and intentions that participants agree on?

What do you think about a worldbuilding social movement that invites participants to collectively explore how we could design AI that enables the alternative futures we want?

Specifically, I'm thinkinging about an iteration of the game which is focused on the environmental impact of AI systems and exploring an environmental justice lens on the impacts of AI. The goal of the iteration would be to invite participants to speculate about how we could design AI in more equitable ways for diverse human populations as well as non-human species and ecosystems.

Yes, this is a ThinkTech, I love it Ruta! Thank you also for the Markdown hint



    :  -- 
    : Ruta
    :  -- 
    

bobi.rakova,

So, could explain what your idea promises, in a nutshell? Is it "Let's communicate in this particular (adventurous, gamified) way, and this will improve AI design", or is it more along the line -- "I noticed that you are trying to create a community to steer the AI through public discussion, what about this community game that we could play, and maybe it would grow into something?"?

If it is the former, inviting people to join discussion threads is a pipe dream without a pipeline, and I suggest elaborating of how this would make the promised impact. I could imagine this happening, if this idea were to propose, say, a social propagation scheme, a system for matching and inviting or on-boarding other opponents (or groups of them), so that game the phenomenon would be provably salable. Otherwise, it's unlikely to reach impact.

If it is the latter, i.e., "Let's just have this form of conversation, and it'll transform AI design," then it's an invitation for activity with purpose, rather than an invention that would move the mountains (make big impact). For example, these gamified conversations for speculative thinking may engage visitors here.

So, it's a [-] for an idea, because it seem to lack rationale of how this would scale up or propagate socially to reach the communities of AI researchers and practitioners, and a [+] for an activity that we could try doing with that intent, and with a hope that it would.



    :  -- 
    : Ruta
    :  -- 
    

Mindey,

Thanks for the sending the link to this discussion. It seems like gaming or scenario exploration can help domain experts understand the impact of their work. Scenario Exploration System.

What i see in my feeds are both utopic and dystopic views of AI. So this would be one dimension of an exploration. Another dimension could be profit vs human centered.



    :  -- 
    : Mindey, Ruta
    :  -- 
    

curtmcn,

Curious, if this idea is a "real-time storytelling game" (from the sub-title), so how would this game work exactly? Say 5 people get together and what happens then? :)



    : Inyuki
    :  -- 
    :  -- 
    

Ruta,

You can use the online Art of Game Design Deck to get inspiration https://deck.artofgamedesign.com/#/divination/?lang=en



    :  -- 
    : Ruta
    :  -- 
    

curtmcn,

O;