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Feb 12, 2023Liked by Mills, 𝔄𝔯𝔠π”₯𝔒𝔱𝔯𝔬𝔫𝔒𝔰𝔰 𝔬𝔣 π”’π”Ÿπ”©π”žπ”©π”¦π”ž

Insanely good. You already know this but I nurture the same fears in my darkest hours (so, all the time). The machines are coming to fuck us up, and it will be cosmic justice for thinking they could replace blue collar auto workers but never our white collar selves. We’re going to get rekt.

Brimming with thoughts and questions but of course feel no obligation to respond to any!

1. It’s really funny you still envision a front-end engineer! Why wouldn’t the Clippy of the future also spit out a functional front end, assembled from off-the-shelf SwiftUI bits? I think they’re kaput too.

2. This β€œomnipotent executive” is really a tragic figure if you play it out. I imagine a lone β€œideas guy,” ordering his laptop to draw products, build them, write the marketing, and monitor the results. Is this really what we believe is the future of company building? Where is the teamwork? Where is the camaraderie? Where is the emotional support and varied expertise and human texture? Similar to arguments about embodied cognition - which reason that intelligence can never emerge in a vacuum, without a physical body making contact with reality - I am skeptical that an β€œexecutive” so insulated from humanity could ever accomplish anything great.

3. But let’s assume that’s how it is. Companies are now no-code, extremely lean, extremely centralized. You can make and deploy any app with the right spoken prompt. Well, wouldn’t this dramatic bar-lowering just create MASSIVE amounts of competition? And in the face of such competition wouldn’t people try to differentiate themselves? Perhaps via (you guessed it) a uniquely human approach to systems, design, and craft? It seems this whole cycle could in fact increase the value of design, though it at first seems to obviate it.

4. Along those same lines - I wonder what new feedback loops will appear on the consumer side of all this. I wonder if ai-gen apps will just be seen as unbelievably cringe. The type of thing you might ship to get signal but never hang your brand on.

5. The biggest gap I see between current state-of-the-art LLMs and what we’d need to overtake design is real-time local (read: intra- and inter-company) knowledge. A lot of β€œmaking the right call” in design depends on knowing you your company’s internal capabilities, as well as the external state of the market, and then also having some fuzzy and ever-evolving model of your customer’s needs. AI currently can not do any of these very well at all, and I think it would take a huge step change to get there. It would have to be in every meeting, see every slack, attend every offsite, internalize lessons from the past, etc. They might get there - I can imagine one day each company having a β€œpersonal” GPT trained on internal data. But for now at least I feel secure knowing that while FigmaGPT might be able to mock up a checkout screen (which is dope as hell!!!) it definitely can not mock up a check out screen for substack that delicately balances conversion, retention, tone, choice architecture, writer sensitivities, branding, and valuable data collection. In fact, it has no internal model of what these things are at all! These bots are worse than the worst dribbbler, utterly glib pixel pushers, and in conclusion they can all eat shit. We humans are here to stay.

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I think that's all correct on a longer timeline! And I love it, of course. Errors in organizational structures and compositions that mimetically dominate are a common way incumbents get exposed to massive market disruptions. NTY headline 2075: "The Best Selling Novel of the Year is by... A Human?"

I probably overstated the numbers, too; all the things you mention are real (the necessity of teamwork, e.g.); it's debatable how perceived that fact is, but if I believe in the claim I should believe in the inevitability of it being demonstrated!

Re: FEEs, I think they could see reductions / expectations of increased output, but I bearishly believe LLMs will have a sort of low ceiling, and that a lot of front end engineering is on the other side of it. Another way to say this: I think you can describe UIs better in text than you can describe code in text. I could be wrong, though!

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Mar 15, 2023Liked by Mills, 𝔄𝔯𝔠π”₯𝔒𝔱𝔯𝔬𝔫𝔒𝔰𝔰 𝔬𝔣 π”’π”Ÿπ”©π”žπ”©π”¦π”ž

I find myself wondering how much longer we’ll be thinking about software primarily in terms of apps that are developed and made available by businesses anyway. As the tools to create and modify arbitrary software are ultra-democratized, will we end up with OSes comprising a starter set of basic apps and a soupy layer of AI assistance? This can make a good-enough version of any utility app you can imagine, esepecially because you can mutate it on a whim any time it does something differently from how you expected it. For networked use cases that currently depend on some social service, decentralized platforms may seem more and more appealing because you can more easily mutate the software that reads them to your needs: just ask β€œwhat is Mills up to these days?”, β€œshow me my mega-feed of everything; no, get rid of these ads; I like the music videos you’ve been finding lately, more of that please”, or β€œcan I get a button that just saves stuff to a list to read later? cool, put that on everything from now on.”

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100% and it’s a very powerful vision! I love that world, even though I have no idea how I’d earn a living in it!

Also: hey William!!! It’s been forever man! I hope you’re well, miss getting to chat with you!

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Feb 12, 2023Liked by Mills, 𝔄𝔯𝔠π”₯𝔒𝔱𝔯𝔬𝔫𝔒𝔰𝔰 𝔬𝔣 π”’π”Ÿπ”©π”žπ”©π”¦π”ž

You know the architecture thing kills me.

One idle dream I have is: what if AI gets good enough that it makes architecture viable again? If it gives architects enough leverage, maybe everyone could go back to having a bespoke house (in this fantasy the AI has also done away with the board of supervisors)

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Feb 12, 2023Liked by Mills, 𝔄𝔯𝔠π”₯𝔒𝔱𝔯𝔬𝔫𝔒𝔰𝔰 𝔬𝔣 π”’π”Ÿπ”©π”žπ”©π”¦π”ž

What if the Pattern Language could be a layer of the neural net.

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Feb 12, 2023Liked by Mills, 𝔄𝔯𝔠π”₯𝔒𝔱𝔯𝔬𝔫𝔒𝔰𝔰 𝔬𝔣 π”’π”Ÿπ”©π”žπ”©π”¦π”ž

Has the deleveraging of architecture been quantified? Has the industry contracted or graduates dried up? Just curious since while I like the analogy I haven’t heard of a downward spiral in that field.

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One of my Bard buddies is an architect. He’s told me the profession has changed a lot over the course of a century or so; he’s mentioned that cities like New York and Chicago aren’t fashioning entire skylines over the course of decades, etc.

His own work is either (1) relatively dull borderline contracting oversight of commercial buildings without much creativity or (2) luxury homes for the rich.

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Feb 12, 2023Liked by Mills, 𝔄𝔯𝔠π”₯𝔒𝔱𝔯𝔬𝔫𝔒𝔰𝔰 𝔬𝔣 π”’π”Ÿπ”©π”žπ”©π”¦π”ž

brb getting into the luxury app market. remember the dolce & gabbana RAZR?

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Feb 23, 2023Liked by Mills, 𝔄𝔯𝔠π”₯𝔒𝔱𝔯𝔬𝔫𝔒𝔰𝔰 𝔬𝔣 π”’π”Ÿπ”©π”žπ”©π”¦π”ž

I've found this to be true, too. It's a small pool, but I interviewed architects for a client’s AEC web app, and they were _very_ interested in the kind of work I do as a UX Designer. The early career architects were disheartened by how little they get to use those hard-earned drafting skills they were pushed to hone at school ("just give me a pencil!" end quote), and the more senior architects lamented how software had added so much complexity to their lives that they spend more time finding and managing files than they do designing anything. Wait'll they hear the robots are coming for our jobs, too.

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Feb 12, 2023Liked by Mills, 𝔄𝔯𝔠π”₯𝔒𝔱𝔯𝔬𝔫𝔒𝔰𝔰 𝔬𝔣 π”’π”Ÿπ”©π”žπ”©π”¦π”ž

This is much better than my argument from lazy, cranky, solipsism: almost all the buildings that get built obviously suck, and have for a long time.

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Feb 12, 2023Liked by Mills, 𝔄𝔯𝔠π”₯𝔒𝔱𝔯𝔬𝔫𝔒𝔰𝔰 𝔬𝔣 π”’π”Ÿπ”©π”žπ”©π”¦π”ž
Feb 19, 2023Liked by Mills, 𝔄𝔯𝔠π”₯𝔒𝔱𝔯𝔬𝔫𝔒𝔰𝔰 𝔬𝔣 π”’π”Ÿπ”©π”žπ”©π”¦π”ž

From Industrial Design field perspective, definitely happened through the 2010s, post-financial crisis and post-iPhone, and 90% of the ID grads I know went into software product design, and school programs shifted to this new reality. CMU's ID program was one of the first in the nation and now it's just one of 3 tracks in their overall design program https://design.cmu.edu/content/bachelor-design.

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Feb 19, 2023Liked by Mills, 𝔄𝔯𝔠π”₯𝔒𝔱𝔯𝔬𝔫𝔒𝔰𝔰 𝔬𝔣 π”’π”Ÿπ”©π”žπ”©π”¦π”ž

whoa I did not know that about ID at CMU. Now that you mention it I did have 2 former architects in my grad school HCI program and have met many converts between the fields since

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Hey Julius!!! Yeah that’s the timeline I remember for sure. It happened fast and I guess from a historical POV so will this next set of changes, maybe.

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Feb 20Liked by Mills, 𝔄𝔯𝔠π”₯𝔒𝔱𝔯𝔬𝔫𝔒𝔰𝔰 𝔬𝔣 π”’π”Ÿπ”©π”žπ”©π”¦π”ž

Really appreciate this and it’s hitting on a lot of notes that I’ve been mulling over.

The issue I don’t have a good answer to is that design and PM is viewed as a cost center. If our roles add friction and we can’t point to a specific monetary value to the assets we bring, how are we supposed to advocate for a role when AI can deliver 80% of tue quality near instantly?

I think there is a role for design and excited for the potential AI delivers. I just think we are at a reckoning because many of the processes design teams have adopted don’t add much value to the bottom line. Uncharitably they may have been added to make UX appear more complex and therefore justify the role.

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Feb 14, 2023Β·edited Feb 14, 2023Liked by Mills, 𝔄𝔯𝔠π”₯𝔒𝔱𝔯𝔬𝔫𝔒𝔰𝔰 𝔬𝔣 π”’π”Ÿπ”©π”žπ”©π”¦π”ž

Thanks for writing this. It's a really interesting take. Some questions emerged for me while I was reading. I'm already up way past my bedtime so I'll just list them.

Why are designers subject to commodification but not engineers and PMs?

Are architects in less demand? Compared to when?

Are we approaching some hard or soft limit on new software projects? We could have a decline in designers required per software project and still be fine if we have an increase in new projects undertaken. There seems to be lots of argument that AI will cause this trend (many new software projects).

Are architecture and software design similar enough to be subject to this commodification force in similar ways?

What is ultimately meant by commodification here? Is it something like "the consolidation of formerly bespoke stuff into more efficient but slightly worse and relatively interchangeable blocks of stuff"? Why aren't former architects finding work on higher level bespoke stuff composed of commodified blocks?

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Feb 13, 2023Liked by Mills, 𝔄𝔯𝔠π”₯𝔒𝔱𝔯𝔬𝔫𝔒𝔰𝔰 𝔬𝔣 π”’π”Ÿπ”©π”žπ”©π”¦π”ž

while people are arguing in the bird app about the tension/overlap between a designer and PM's responsiblities, Mills paints a clear picture of the more serious looming threat... appreciate this perspective

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