Maryland Smith Research / September 22, 2022

Design AI Poses a Threat to Human Designers’ Jobs

Researchers Discover Human Designers’ Level of Experience Informs Their Response

Design AI Poses a Threat to Human Designers’ Jobs

Technology has been replacing people on the job for years, and many displaced workers have done what they had to do - find other employment. Artificial Intelligence is the latest threat to human labor. University of Maryland Robert H. Smith School of Business Professor Siva Viswanathan and his co-author Mikhail Lysyakov of the University of Rochester Simon School of Business, have found human designers respond to this based on how much experience they have.

The crowdsourcing platform used in the research lets clients come up with contests that offer designers with the best logo design a cash award. “Clients with more complex requirements typically provide higher award amounts,” says Viswanathan. “Clients have a choice to either use the AI logo maker or run a contest with human designers. We find that after the introduction of the AI system, there is a significant cannibalization by the AI for lower-tier tasks available to human designers. This poses a significant threat to human designers as the AI system is capable of learning and improving over time - thereby increasing the likelihood of further cannibalization(taking over tasks done by human designers).”

The study notes that technologies from steam engines to industrial machinery have proven faster, more powerful, productive, accurate, reliable, durable and cheaper to use than humans. This has led to the replacement of people performing these tasks, and humans having to quit and switch to less “automatable” tasks. Viswanathan says, “humans can either quit those tasks that the AI systems perform or compete with AI by leveraging such qualities as imagination, creativity, and emotional expression.” He and Lysyakov’s research, Threatened by AI: Analyzing Users' Responses to the Introduction of AI in a Crowd-sourcing Platform finds less experienced designers are more likely to exit the platform because of competition from AI for lower tier work, but more capable designers continue on the platform to more complex design contests.

“Our findings show that successful designers recognize what makes their designs successful and are more likely to focus on and improve those aspects of their submissions (emotional content and complexity),” says Viswanathan. AI is emotionally deficient so, “while AI systems will learn better and quickly improve over time, they can only learn from available data/examples.”

In the short run, those who can adapt to these emerging tools and technologies would fare better. The research provides evidence of how successful designers are adapting quickly to the threat from artificial intelligence in the short run. While in the short run AI technologies are also likely to "replace" equivalent tasks performed by humans, in the longer run, we will see new ways of leveraging AI, not just to replace or compete with humans, but to generate different and superior outcomes, than is possible by either one of them - humans or AI - and this would herald the AI revolution.

Given all this, should these designers prepare for and accept that they will eventually have to find other work as so many other employees have? Viswanathan says, “this is a very significant question, and one that we would all like to find the answer to. Our study is a first step in that direction.”

The research “Threatened by AI: Analyzing Users’ Responses to the Introduction of AI in a Crowd-sourcing Platform”, is forthcoming in the journal Information Systems Research.

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