The artificial intelligence is arena is a huge. There are practical components, philosophical components and butterfly effect components that all have to be thought about when approaching such a topic. This post is going to summarise a state of the union of how I currently see it, as this whole change in operations and the way we do things will most likely be the MOST important thing that happens to humanity.
If you have ever read books like guns, germs and steel or sapiens you realise that what the world has been since the dawn of time until 500 years ago. Blood, killing, competition and disease. Just ask the most prominent historian of the last decade Will Durant, summed up after the 11-volume monster called the history of civilisation what he thought was the foundational principle when looking at life, his conclusion was that ‘life is competition’. It’s good to keep that in mind when learning about the powers of this incredible technology.
Recently I had the chance to sit down with Nick Bostrom who’s a professor at the University of Oxford and advisor to Elon Musk and Bill Gates on the topic of Artificial Intelligence.
There currently seems like two camps in this new gold rush, the camp of folk like Peter Diamandis who believe in the exponential upside for humans contrasted with the concerns of people like Elon Musk, Stephan Hawkings who can see existential threats from this technology.
What are the near term benefits
From this angle I will talk what is artificial intelligence is doing right now in my industry, which is marketing and advertising. These changes have ripple effects into wider industries.
The reason I believe people hate adverts so much is because so much of the crap that get shown has no thought behind it. In fact the current state of the union you might fell there is not much hope with the rise of fraud and miscalculating metrics.
However Facebook and Google are both producing incredible strides in this arena.
Facebook firstly have two products of particular importance here. The first is what they call their lookalike audience. Through analysing in depth behavioural data (the best kind as my thoughts on market research are similar to Ogilvy’s “People don’t think what they feel, don’t say what they think and don’t do what they say” ) Facebook can match with other users who conduct similar behaviour. Now past performance doesn’t always indicate future behaviour, however when targeting like it’s like forecasting and displaying your ads in a predictable future environment.
The second product of Facebook to take notice of is it’s messenger app. With more than 1 billion active monthly users across its messaging product suite Facebook has incredible conversational data to learn from. With it’s introduction of messaging bots in 2016, you have a clear indication of where the first real life example of the Turing test being passed from.
Alongside Facebook, Google is also pushing the envelope in this arena, connecting search, display and youtube is just the start. Google has gone directly into the home. With it’s latest release of google home combined with nest it’s trying to anticipate your events before you even do them. This kind of targeting provides the ability to put you message in front of the user before they know what’s up. It might sound spooky and I haven’t heard of a use case nailing it with conversions a high percentage of the time. But what fascinates me more is will we actually believe it is happening, for example in Incognito by David Eagleman you realise that people build a narrative about their own actions even if they did not consciously do. Some of the science behind it you can see in the following video with acclaimed neuroscientist Moarn Cerf in an episode of Impact Theory.
All that aside getting to the point of knowing what you want before you want it is something AI will soon start predicting with greater, and greater accuracy.
Albert Lasker said that marketing is just “salesmanship in print”, in Scientific Advertising the book that David Ogilvy stated “Nobody should be allowed to have anything to do with advertising until he has read this book seven times. It changed the course of my life” about, says the Advertising is just salesmanship multiplied.
The key theme here is that the reason we do marketing is because the economics of having hundreds thousands of salesmen all transmitting a message is just not viable.
But what if you could get close.
Personalisation in AI has taken on a form of it’s own. Take amazon for example it’s innovating on a multitude of different areas of personalisation from your name across the site, personal wish lists, location based optimisation, personalised recommendations, psychographic profiles and email personalisation.
Ultimately marketing is going to provide you a personal assistant like interactive experience, that will be tailored for you seamlessly across platforms, when this happens reaching Jay Abrahams idea of preeminence will be applicable on a personal level. The things I see that are currently missing in this arena are the offline data transactions and information. Online companies like blue-kai or DMP’s and huge aggregators like Kantar, Facebook, Google are adequately providing the online data pieces, but to get a full picture offline connections must be made.
Stepping outside of marketing and looking long term
But further out could we witness this being the end to humanity as we know it? Possibly, coming full circle if life is competition and a AI has an objective of what Nick Bostrom in his book calls the ‘paper clip machine’ where by all actions taken by a AI is set up to maximise the amount of paper clips it can make, at a certain point, it will have to stop diverting resources away from humans and wider nature in order for it to keep achieving it’s objective. Of course we may think, well duh? You just have to take out the plug if that happens, however when dealing with a machine smarter than the entire human species put together, which is exponentially growing and access to a whole world of data of knowledge (the internet) that can be kind of hard to do.
When Nick Bostrom told me that things are moving ‘a lot faster than we first thought’ being able to set up the structures in place to make sure that these machines work for the good of humanity and creating value should always be our overarching mission. (If you think a similar way you may be interested to sign this letter also)
I look forward to what the future brings and look forward on working to maximise the positive effects it will have for everyone.