I’m getting more and more interested in the intersection between design and Big Data, what it may mean for the future of design, and what are current examples of disruptions in our industry when algorithms get combined with vast amounts of data.
When a design is automatically generated and produced, who is responsible for it? While for many of us the obvious answer is whomever wrote the algorithm and published the work, Tim Maly wrote in his very interesting post Algorithmic Rape Jokes in the Library of Babel of how,
A t-shirt company called Solid Gold Bomb was caught selling shirts with the slogan “KEEP CALM and RAPE A LOT” on them. They also sold shirts like “KEEP CALM and CHOKE HER” and “KEEP CALM and PUNCH HER”. The Internet—especially the UK Internet—exploded.
Amazingly, when people took notice and the complaints came, the company’s apology was that they didn’t know what they were selling, saying in an apology that,
Although we did not in any way deliberately create the offensive t-shirts in question and it was the result of a scripted programming process that was compiled by only one member of our staff, we accept the responsibility of the error and our doing our best to correct the issues at hand. We’re sorry for the ill feeling this has caused!
Stores sometimes have signs saying “if you break it, you own it.” In this new world, will we need to debate whether “if you(r algorithms) made it, own up to it”?