AI AWAKENING

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has the ability to transform lighting design – and in fact already is doing so. It poses important moral, ethical and philosophical questions yet ultimately, as Juan Ferrari argues, AI needs to be seen not as a threat but as a collaborative tool crucial to the design process

Back in November 2022, I found myself on an unexpected voyage into the realms of Artificial Intelligence (AI). It all began, during an ordinary car ride en route to a company-wide convention.

Little did I know that this ride would be the beginning of an extraordinary journey into the AI landscape that would eventually redefine my professional trajectory.

As the wheels spun down the road to a convention in sunny Birmingham, a casual conversation with a colleague steered toward uncharted territory. ‘Have you tried ChatGPT yet?’ my colleague asked, breaking the monotony of the journey. My response was a straightforward ‘No’.

Fast forward seven months, and there I was, speaking as an ‘AI expert’ at the International Association of Lighting Designers (IALD) Enlighten Conference in Berlin, a remarkable journey spurred by that seemingly mundane car conversation.

As we were getting closer to our destination for the day, experimenting with ChatGPT became a revelatory experience. I challenged the AI, asking it to describe considerations for designing the lighting of an office space. The response, although not without a few peculiar Americanisms, was surprisingly good, bordering on LG7 readiness.

But, as my fascination with AI’s capabilities grew, so did the uncertainty. The ease with which AI managed tasks left me contemplating the essence of my profession. Could I, as a lighting designer, be trusted if I was using AI? Would it dilute my professional credibility, leaving an indelible mark on my reputation? The fear of being discovered using AI as a design aid loomed large, igniting a philosophical debate in me.

The uncertainty reached a crescendo when the IALD called for papers for the Enlighten Conference in Berlin. I had a few different papers to submit, including a very robust one, a culmination of our design team collective lifetime work, The North Star, as I discussed with my colleague Brad Joseph in Lighting Journal last year (‘Follow your north star’, February 2023, vol 88 no 2).

I found myself with a dilemma. Would this esteemed conference be receptive to a paper conceived with significant AI influence? Could an AI-assisted submission match the depth and value of our collective expertise?

Ultimately, I took the plunge, submitting all papers, including those infused with AI-generated content.

The moment of being selected to speak at such a prestigious conference was both exhilarating and unnerving. The thrill of being selected to speak collided head-on with a persistent sense of unease, of feeling like a cheat – because of my using AI for the presentation, even though that was of course the whole point.

Would the integration of AI-gleaned content affect my future credibility as a lighting designer? It was a moment characterised by conflicting emotions; the highs of professional recognition contrasted with the lingering unease of potentially being perceived as less authentic because of my collaboration with AI.

In the event, the presentation was a success, thankfully. Based on the juxtaposition of emotions, in fact it marked a pivotal point in my professional ‘journey’: my life before and after AI.

Now it was a case of embracing, defending and sharing my AI knowledge; to stop feeling that I was somehow ‘cheating’ when using AI.

At the centr henomenon is the attempt to make machines think and act like humans do. It encompasses a realm where machines mimic cognitive functions, such as learning, problem-solving, and decision-making.

The history of AI is woven with tales that echo ancient dreams of creating intelligence – a pursuit that echoes through time. From Greek myths envisioning animated creations to Alan Turing’s groundbreaking test proposing machine intelligence, the journey has been long and diverse.

There are milestone moments in the AI road, such as the inception of the term ‘artificial intelligence’ by John McCarthy in the 1950s or the triumph of the ‘Deep Blue’ computer over chess champion Garry Kasparov in 1997.

However, it is the recent, and accelerating, progress in conversational AI, exemplified by ChatGPT, that has made discussions about AI prevalent among everyone, including within lighting and lighting design.

These AI entities, heralding a new era of natural language understanding, have generated both praise for their breadth of knowledge and critique for occasional factual inaccuracies (hallucinations!). The discourse around their capabilities and limitations catapulted AI into public discussion, challenging notions of intelligence and its societal impact.

For me, AI is an indispensable ally, reshaping how I approach our work. My journey with AI began with simple language corrections.

English being my second language, ensuring accuracy and fluency in communication was paramount. AI tools, like those embedded in Microsoft Word, transformed my writing process, offering quick and efficient proofreading, sparing the need for lengthy explanations to colleagues that would have helped me doing this in the past.

Beyond language, AI opened doors for me to expansive knowledge. I use AI-powered platforms such as ChatGPT not only to search for lighting design insights but to transform generic texts into tailored introductions for our projects. The efficiency has been staggering, sparking an internal philosophical dialogue on the morality of integrating AI into my professional life.

Moreover, AI now serves as a catalyst for design inspiration. It isn’t just about finding reference images anymore; it is about diving into a vast reservoir of imaginative possibilities.

These tools have revolutionised how I gather ideas, how I offer customised recommendations, and have speeded up the creative process. AI-driven image searches have empowered me to curate mood boards swiftly, streamlining the initial stages of our design projects.


AI’s impact has extended al-time applications, even influencing our VR experiences. It has enabled the creation of immersive virtual environments where lighting fixtures could be visualised and adjusted, enhancing our ability to experiment and present ideas effectively.

In essence, AI has become a multifaceted ‘assistant’, simplifying tasks, enhancing creativity, and fundamentally altering the way I approach lighting design. It’s not just a tool, for me it is a transformative force redefining the boundaries of innovation and design within our profession. This isn’t merely a technological wave; it’s a transformative force shaping the future.

Embracing AI, however, comes with its share of concerns. The biggest is fears from people that they will lose their jobs to ‘the machines’.

After that privacy tops the list, encompassing worries about data security, unauthorised access, and potential misuse of personal information. The idea of our activities and lives being known to an unknown entity raises justified scepticism about the technology’s usage.

Quality, disinformation, and responsibility add to these concerns. There is lingering unease about the accuracy and reliability of AI-generated outputs, and the potential for spreading misinformation is a prevalent concern. Questions arise about accountability for actions and decisions made by AI systems, highlighting the need for clear guidelines and user education regarding AI capabilities and limitations.

Ethical dilemmas also surface. AI tools are only as impartial as the data they’re trained on, raising worries about perpetuating existing biases. The fear of discrimination remains a further pressing issue.

From biased data used for training AI to algorithmic biases within the systems themselves, the lack of diversity in development teams and transparency within AI systems raise concerns about social equity and reinforcement of stereotypes.

Addressing these concerns requires thorough evaluation of data, rectification of biases, diverse development teams, transparent algorithms, and continuous monitoring and auditing of AI systems. Promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion within AI research and development is crucial to counteract underlying biases and systemic issues.

In the realm of lighting design, AI has become an indispensable ally. I have incorporated AI-powered tools for language corrections, enabling efficient and accurate proofreading, saving substantial time, and enhancing the precision of our communication.

Moreover, AI isn’t just about correction; it amplifies creativity by providing text suggestions and helps alter the tone of lighting papers to match project requirements. Indeed, as the note at the end has highlighted, I’ve even used AI to assist with the writing of this article.

Beyond language enhancements, I am now using AI for visual content too. Using AI for reference images in lighting design has significantly streamlined our creative process. These tools efficiently navigate vast databases, curating a diverse range of lighting design ideas, thereby enriching our inspiration, and expediting the ideation phase.

We at Hoare Lea have always been fascinated with visual communication – and AI can only elevate our offer of communication tools we have created in the past.

From the LightSIM® platform (2008), enabling clients to explore photometrically accurate lighting scenes, to our Light APP® (2017), empowering users to create their lighting designs — our advancements in lighting design communication have been groundbreaking.

The potential for AI integration in these platforms excites us, envisioning real-time solutions accessible to everyone, revolutionising the way lighting designs are conceptualised and presented.

At the heart of these advancements lies a pivotal question: should professionals trust themselves to embrace this technological wave?

For me, the answer lies in a growth mindset — a willingness to step beyond comfort zones, explore uncharted territories, and view AI not as a threat but as a collaborator in the design process. AI is transforming the very fabric of our work. It’s not just about tools; it’s a new way of communicating, creating, and envisioning lighting solutions.

As designers, we trust tools like calculators, Photoshop, or AutoCAD. Why, then, should we hesitate to embrace AI as a tool to elevate our designs?

It’s time to trust our capabilities and evolve with technology. AI doesn’t negate creativity; it amplifies it.

In conclusion, for me, the convergence of AI and lighting design marks a crossroad, an opportunity for professionals to choose between embracing innovation or resisting change.

Embracing AI isn’t a surrender of creativity; it’s an expansion of possibilities. The key lies in fostering a relationship where human expertise and AI coalesce to forge a future where creativity thrives unbounded.

As I reflect on this journey – from scepticism to advocacy – I implore my fellow designers to embark on this voyage of exploration. Let’s embrace AI as a catalyst for creativity, a partner in innovation, and a beacon guiding us toward a future where design reaches unparalleled heights.

NEED TO KNOW
> AI has reshaped how Juan Ferrari works as a lighting designer, everything from writing articles and project briefs through to sparking design inspiration.

> AI brings with it important conversations around the future of jobs, privacy, disinformation, accuracy
and quality of information. These all need to be considered and addressed by lighting.

> The convergence of AI and lighting design marks a crossroad, whether to embrace innovation or resist change.

All content for the original IALD presentation and this article was generated with the assistance of AI, including the use of ChatGPT Midjourney and various AI embedded within Microsoft and Adobe packages. The collaboration between human creativity and AI technology continues to redefine the possibilities within the field of lighting design.

HOW AI CAN BENEFIT LIGHTING DESIGN
In an article for the Illuminated Engineering Society last year, lighting consultant Thomas Paterson argued that AI will have four key applications within lighting design:
> Machine intelligence in design. For example, inputting a building model or outputting a lighting design. ‘We can ask mmachines to lay out lighting in an office, to organise circuiting, to optimise systems at the design stage,’ Paterson highlighted. ‘It could produce the designs that we would otherwise do manually.’
> Optimisation of tasks. This, he argued, is already happening in the built environment, for example in structural engineering to minimise steel usage. ‘This uses basic, well understood algorithms with decades of application already,’ he added.
> Construction. Construction could use AI for process and quality monitoring, doing comparisons between the built
environment and the original design, as well as be part of robotics and other construction hardware, he said.
> Operational systems. Operational systems can apply something ‘simulating judgment’ in the operation of building systems, Paterson highlighted. This can include ‘balancing lighting needs perhaps with views through shading, HVAC through temperature sensing and so on’, he added.

You can read the full article at: https://www.ies.org/lda/ai-in-the-lighting-space/

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