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AD STARS 2021: “We Are Bloated with Data, Starved for Wisdom”

Associations, Award Shows and Festivals
Busan, South Korea
The world is being rewritten in code so all creatives must learn to code, says Joanna Peña-Bickley, head of research and design at Alexa Devices at Amazon and CEO and design fellow at, in a talk last week at AD STARS 2021

Joanna Peña-Bickley believes creatives must work smarter, embrace AI and learn Cognitive Experience Design skills in order to stay relevant in an AI-powered culture of creativity.

At AD STARS 2021, she explained how the culture of creativity and the creativity value chain is taking a fundamental shift from services performed by humans, to algorithms empowering individual makers. 

“I share this not to scare you that the robots are coming for your jobs but because we are at an inflection point where we as creators can work smarter with the assistance of AI. Where can this transformation take us? 

“In this new connected era, we are redefining what it means to be human, augmenting our intelligence and creativity with new conversational and brain interfaces. From IoT to quantum computing, life as we know it is changing and the planet is changing with it,” she said.

She said the past year has accelerated this shift. It was a year that changed lives, eroded trust in businesses and brands, while also showing our resilience as humans on this planet.

“Today, we the creators are being called upon to answer a simple question during this great reset: what if? Do we dare to design a future that we deserve today? But before we do that, we must learn from our past.”

There are three forces that shape industrial revolutions: communications, mobility and energy. Autonomous cars and drones are redefining what it means to be mobile. Billions of IoT devices are redefining how we communicate with each other and with things. Wind, solar, hydro, geothermal and biomass energy are replacing coal and oil. We are at a time of incredible change – driven by data.

“We are producing 2.5 quintillion zeta bytes of data – daily. The quantity is growing exponentially. Here’s the rub: we are bloated with data, starved for wisdom. To make progress, we need to understand the cognitive limits of our human brains – which are often filled with false information, making them prone to destruction.

“This is why AI is so important: it helps machines crunch massive quantities of data; make predictions; and make significant steps forward.” 

AI is reinventing creativity: introducing “Cognitive Experience Design”

Amidst this global reset, consumers are looking to augment their intelligence and avoid cognitive overload through too much data.

“This has led to a new design discipline that unites human and user centred design with cognitive and neuro ergonomics: cognitive experience design – a field of design that  creates products and services, systems and businesses that are good for people, planet, business,” explained Peña-Bickley.

She believes our canvas for creating has changed. It’s time to reinvent what it means to be creative, emphasizing human experiences that remove complexity from people’s lives. “AI is riddled with ethical issues – that is true –  but cognitive experience design is about principled ingenuity. It strives to enhance human ability and the quality of human life.” 

So, what does this mean for creatives? It means mastering a new raft of skills.

“The world is being written in code so we need to learn to code. Creatives used to think, ‘that’s what engineers do’ but everybody on the planet will need to code. I can’t name an industry that isn’t being rewritten in code, yet it’s designers who have the potential to make every moment magical, enchant, connect. We can design moments that disrupt the status quo and bring people solutions and messages that they need in real-time. So, we must think big, and think different,” she concluded. 

This is a summarised edit of Joanna Peña-Bickley’s AD STARS 2021 presentation, “Creativity 2030 – AI Powered Culture of Creativity”, which is now available to watch on-demand via

Work from Mad Stars