Context & The Age of Reason

May 6, 2021



Context can be defined in many ways, but at the end of the day it is about ensuring that AI can read all the signs to understand its environment or behave in appropriate ways depending on the situation.

A key component of the Levels of AIX Framework, it deals with the environmental, cultural, and personal nuances that need to be considered to ensure equitable and purpose-driven AI. Whether at home, at work, in your car, or in public spaces, each environment requires different social rules, while individual personalities and values require AI that reasons, understands, explores, and adapts to them.

To be sure, it is at this stage where AI goes beyond surface-level interactions to not only actively perform the basic requirements of its primary functions, but also make recommendations such as what to eat before a potentially stressful business meeting or suggest the perfect restaurant to meet up with friends later that night.

In a recent interview as part of the AIX Exchange – a report sponsored by LG Electronics and Element AI – Sri Shivananda, senior vice president and chief technology officer at PayPal, explains the emerging relevance of context in AI to the area that he knows best, payments.


“We've just seen over the last decade how mobile has played a significant role in changing payment behavior and payment experiences,” he says. “As we go forward, design and user experiences will continue to play a critical role in how these experiences come about.”

“Commerce is going to become contextual. It is going to be surrounding us where we are. It may be through a smart speaker interaction or a continued interaction with a desktop laptop or a mobile device, or for that matter with the car that you are driving in. As commerce becomes contextual, AI has to become contextual as well.”

In order to do a deep dive into the topic, AIX Exchange: The Future of AI and Human Experience explores five key themes around context. They are as follows, along with a short precis of what each section explores:


As we design new artificial intelligence experiences for end users, it is going to be evermore important to ensure we consider the contextual realities that we assume as humans within our environment and different spaces. But even more important will be the challenge of codifying our very human understanding of the world based on our sense of place, as well as the behaviors and especially the information that we share between those spaces.


Part of the challenge with AI and values is that it is such a complex combination. On the one hand, you have software developers creating what will surely be an essential instrument of the future, yet on the other hand there are human beings to account for, each with differing interests, emotions, intelligence, and tastes. The key lies in applying the AIX design and including as diverse a range of perspectives as possible into the development of AI systems, to ensure that a valuable experience for humans remains the focus on every level.


A principal theme in Level 3 of the AIX Framework revolves around understanding. AI, at this point, understands the patterns and principles across systems to meet predefined missions. One feature of note is that AI shares learning outcomes to achieve a broader mission, whatever that mission may be. At one end of the spectrum it could mean interpreting the mood of an individual, while on the other end it could mean assisting with the growth and learning of society as a whole.


The idea that AI will be able to look beyond the obvious context of certain inputs and generate novel combinations and juxtapositions to create new contextual meaning for the end user is something that could be quite valuable, since it is already how we solve problems as humans. The interesting juxtaposition will be in the context that we see around AI creations. The onus will be on both the developer and the end user to get it right.


When it comes to personality and context, there is an argument to be made here that it is not necessarily about personality as much as it is personalization. In that regard, there are questions to ponder. Key among them is, what do developers of AI systems and applications need to think about as the technology starts to allow for much more personal, real-time engagement?

In the digital age, they say that content is king. If so, as we move into a new era of developing systems and products for the new AI experience, it could be argued that context is queen... and we all know who the real power is behind the throne.

Perhaps by applying the AIX design and including as diverse a range of perspectives as possible into these systems, we can help ensure the most equitable and valuable experiences as possible for end users.

Check out the full report at or watch the interviews at