Projects & Observations
We are focused on the social trends that could shape the future and the tech tools that may drive it. Our projects are informed and influenced by our engagement with experts across the research, tech and design spectrums. In this space, we share what we’re learning, what’s inspiring, and what’s next.
Artificial Intelligence
BY: Sarah Hoffman | March 8, 2023
We’re in a new era of AI. “It feels like we’re going from spring to summer,” said Jack Clark, a co-chair of Stanford University’s annual A.I. Index Report. “In spring, you have these vague suggestions of progress, and little green shoots everywhere. Now, everything’s in bloom.” In less than three years, we’ve seen AIs become...
BY: Sarah Hoffman | February 14, 2023
OpenAI’s new text generator ChatGPT attracted over 1 million users just a few days after launch. The app’s performance made headlines with some even comparing the significance of the release to the debut of the iPhone. So, what's the big deal?
Artificial Intelligence
BY: Sarah Hoffman | November 22, 2022
New AI image-generation tools are emerging that allow anyone, regardless of technical proficiency, to become an artist, a graphic designer, or an illustrator. And the quality of the output is surprisingly good and will no doubt improve quickly.
BY: Sarah Hoffman | August 23, 2022
For non-technical folks, starting an online business used to mean finding (and hiring) a developer or chief technical officer. No more. Thanks to no-code development tools, anybody who can access a keyboard can build a business. Justin Welsh built a one-man online business that generated over $1M in revenue in 810 days without writing one line of code.[i] Hello Prenup, which helps couples write low-cost prenuptial agreements, was also built with no-code software.[ii] These successes aren’t accidents.
By: JOHN DALTON | August 18, 2022
The remarkable progress in algorithms for machine and deep learning have opened the doors to new opportunities, and some dark possibilities. However, a bright future awaits those who build on their working methods by including human-centered AI strategies of design and testing. As many technology companies and thought leaders have argued, the goal is not to replace people but to empower them by making design choices that give humans control over technology.
Artificial Intelligence
BY: SARAH HOFFMAN| June 6, 2022
Gartner predicts that by 2024 80% of technology services will be built by non-technical professionals.1 Fueling this trend is the rise of no-code and low-code development, AI-enabled software that lets people with little to no programming experience generate their own apps. Is such a thing even possible?
BY: JOHN DALTON | May 10 2022
Synthetic biology is the promising and controversial technology platform that combines biology and artificial intelligence, opening up the potential to program biological systems much as we program computers.
FCAT recently hosted Amy Webb, founder of the Future Today Institute, and the author of “The Genesis Machine: Our Quest to Rewrite Life in the Age of Synthetic Biology,” where she discussed the science, and the ethical, moral, and religious issues surrounding synthetic biology
Artificial Intelligence
BY: SARAH HOFFMAN | April 13, 2022
FCAT recently hosted a presentation by psychologist and author Jean-Francois (JF) Bonnefon on his latest book, “The Car That Knew Too Much”. The book discusses a groundbreaking experiment, the Moral Machine, that allowed millions of people from over 200 countries and territories to make choices about life-and-death dilemmas posed by driverless cars. Should they sacrifice passengers for pedestrians? Save children rather than adults? Kill one person so many can live?
Artificial Intelligence
BY: SARAH HOFFMAN | March 10, 2022
What will human and AI interactions look like? How will new AI tools change the way we work? To find out, we decided to see if GPT-3, OpenAI’s AI system that “speaks” human languages, could help write this article. Why this AI? Given any natural language text prompt, it can complete sentences, produce a summary of any copy it is given, and even try to simplify the grammar of a given piece of writing. Those are potentially useful tools when it comes to writing and editing documents.
Artificial Intelligence
BY: SARAH HOFFMAN | March 10, 2022
Can the design process be enhanced or improved by the power of AI? After a recent Artificial Intelligence Club event, Columbia University’s Lydia Chilton sat down with FCAT’s Sarah Hoffman to discuss the potential of AI as a creative tool. Chilton is an Assistant Professor in the Computer Science Department and is an early pioneer in deconstructing complex problems so that crowds and computers can solve them together.
Artificial Intelligence
BY: Sarah Hoffman | December 9, 2021
We've spent a lot of time discussing the unintended bias that can easily creep into AI algorithms. But the same technology, properly designed and trained, can also be used to confront biases. A new generation of automated tools seeks to proactively promote inclusion in:
BY: Sarah Hoffman | September 2, 2021
As companies try to figure out how and when to bring employees back to the office, one often purported benefit of doing so is that the proximity to colleagues – and the chance for spontaneous meetings and conversations – spurs innovation.
BY: COLLEEN McCRETTON | August 18, 2021
Over the last several years one of the FCAT AI teams - code named “RoboReader” - has been working on processing documents and taking needed information from unstructured text and transforming it into structured data that can be used by the business. In the course of the work, we have noticed parallels in the way we are “teaching” the system and how we read as humans.
FCAT Research
We’ve all received email messages with misspellings, designed to outsmart AI-driven spam filters. Perhaps you’ve also heard about how a two-inch piece of tape tricked Tesla cars into speeding up 50 miles per hour.1 What these and hundreds of other anecdotes demonstrate is that it’s relatively easy to manipulate AI systems. Indeed, efforts to "fool" AI have already impacted our industry, where we find numerous examples of people trying to manipulate:
By: DEANNA LAUFER | May 17, 2021
Automation is moving up the value chain, taking on more “human” tasks like financial planning, factory floor management, and home health care. In response, companies need to reevaluate how to build trust in automated systems, considering both their reliability and the human-machine relationship.
FCAT Research
Now that so many of us are doing almost everything online at home -- shopping, work, doctor appointments, school, financial check-ins, parent-teacher conferences --- you may have noticed some not so subtle behavior changes among those around you. Maybe a colleague has suddenly started blocking her video feed during Zoom calls. Perhaps a customer has started speaking slower, making a lot of spelling errors, or is typing at a different pace. Maybe you’ve noticed a change in the tones of a colleague’s MS Teams or Yammer posts or changes in a customer’s chatbot message style. All of this could be indicative of something important, and AI is an ideal tool to pick up on these changes.
BY: COLLEEN MCCRETTON | January 28, 2021
Bias in data used by AI algorithms is drawing increasing attention. The internet is full of examples of AI systems bias: recruiting algorithms trained on data that favored male candidates, facial recognition software unable to appropriately identify people of color, medical systems trained with data that is not sufficiently diverse, and many other examples. However, there is another aspect to bias that impacts AI systems and bears some scrutiny as well - the cognitive biases that users bring to the table.
BY: SETH BROOKS | October 22, 2020
Humans have enjoyed an intimate and physical relationship with technology and how they have interacted with tools throughout time. Throughout history the tools created by people have the same two basic characteristics: tools require that a user manipulate them through some physical input, and the tool or some connected object will respond accordingly and provide user feedback via an externally observable output. For example, at the dawn of time a person might hit a sharp stone tool against a branch (the input) and then see the tool’s effect from the cuts created in the bark (the externally observable output).
FCAT Research
By: Sarah Hoffman | Aug 27, 2020
Bias in AI is a known problem. Cases involving medical care, parole, recruiting, and loans have all been tainted by flawed data sampling or training data that includes biased human decisions.1 The good news: large organizations are waking up. Even the Vatican has chimed in with a charter on AI ethics.2 Even better news: there are practical methods for combatting AI bias.

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