Perttii Saariluoma is concerned about our future. As Professor of Cognitive Science at the University of Jyväskylä, he strives to understand the psychology behind how people interact with technologies. Through philosophical thinking and argumentation, Saariluoma thoroughly examines the processes behind innovation, design and design thinking in order to determine the place of future technologies in human life.
Prior to engaging in design research, Saariluoma obtained his Doctorate in Psychology at the University of Turku, immersing himself in the psychology of expert thinking and its various preconditions. He then went on to conduct a critical analysis of the assumptions underlying experimental psychology.
Over time, the researcher shifted his interest towards economic thought errors before progressing into the fields technology, user experience and innovation. Saariluoma’s deep knowledge of cognitive psychology enables him to continuously make significant contributions to the area of design thinking.
Innovation as human thinking
“We develop ideas that make it easier for designers to understand that they are, in the first place, actually designing how people live. And in the second place, technical artifacts,” Saariluoma says. “I would say, the overall strategy is understanding innovation as a whole as human thinking.”
Saariluoma’s multidisciplinary approach to design research is made evident in his role as a Design United Research Fellow at Eindhoven University of Technology. Concentrating on human-technology interaction processes, he explores the nature of intellect and how we can use emerging technologies and information systems to support human thinking in design. One example is his recent critique on the Turing Test –Alan Turing’s best-known thought experiment in artificial intelligence–, where he and Matthias Rauterberg argued that the test actually measures performance levels rather than intelligence and that human thought processes are dissimilar to that of machines.
“This theme is important at the moment for the reason that we are moving over to the next generation of computers and devices,” Saariluoma explains. “One issue that is a central topic in cognitive science is how we can automatise or replace people in tasks by machines and let them do something else. And through design there may be many things that can be replaced.”
In order to improve these innovation processes, Saariluoma is convinced that the study of human life is critical to design research. Moreover, he believes that single-disciplinary education is no longer sufficient in the fields of social science and design when addressing with the world’s problems. The cognitive psychologist makes his case by discussing an upcoming project on designing for alzheimer patients. “If you can detect memory disorders at a very early stage, then, it’s possible, knowing modern medicine, to improve their active lives for several years. And that’s a big human value.” That being said, Saariluoma hopes that social scientists and other “human” researchers will become more actively involved in technology development.
“Understanding human life makes it possible to tell engineers and technical people what kind of technologies we need,” Saariluoma says. “At the end of the day, I have never seen a technology that would not be for human life.”