13 October 2016

DIGITAL - Artificial Intelligence Offers Marketing Opportunities

Artificial intelligence (AI) has fascinated humans for generations, and dystopian futures full of malevolent intelligent robots have remained a science fiction staple since the 1940s, and have only grown in popularity since the term “artificial intelligence” was coined in 1965.

Robots and AI - benevolent or violent – still feature prominently in science fiction, but also in speculative fiction and non-fiction, and they are a significant research direction for many technology companies and institutes.

The fear of malevolent AI is on the minds of many, but others see the potential for deep connection and community within benevolent AI, such as in Eugenia Kuyda’s fascinating and heart-wrenching construction of an AI that spoke in her deceased best friend’s voice, using his words.

This is a type AI that drives connection and community, and is a tool for health and healing - a far cry from HAL 9000, and closer to projects like benevolent.ai, that use AI to advance healthcare and search through emerging research for marketable trends.

It is this potential for conversation and connection that makes so much marketing and customer interaction possible in developing AI technologies.

More and more, AI and adaptable bots are part of the fabric of everyday life.

AI is no longer a science fiction trope, it is now a reality. And, critically, AI, or at least learning bots, are a marketing tool that will become increasingly relevant as consumers demand round-the-clock, real-time responsiveness from brands. 

AI systems are curating content, making suggestions for products or “people you may know”, analyzing credit and debit card usage to prevent fraud, and even helping people fight parking tickets or keep their housing in the face of housing insecurity and homelessness.

As marketing moves forward, customers will expect more interaction, and more responsiveness.

FastCoCreate’s sector forecasting suggests that marketers will strive to “make everything a catalyst for conversation” and AI will be an important part of that process.

There are risks with using AI, as Microsoft learned with the launch (and quick shut down) of Tay. Allowing AI to learn from the internet at large is a significant risk, and Tay learned the worst parts of contemporary human interaction from Twitter.

Marketers will need to be aware and ready to respond quickly to problems in the system, and be conscious of curating and guiding the process or risk repeating Facebook’s error when it’s “on this day” algorithm failed to analyze context and ended up presenting users with ex-partners, unhappy memories, and even deceased pets and friends. Good automation requires good algorithms.

Artificial intelligence is here, and is a fascinating, exciting, and growing field. It will have significant impact on employment and labour, marketing, even health care and education.

The current consumer climate is changing rapidly, and adapting to customer demands through using leading edge technologies – including AI – is an important tool in any marketer’s belt.

By Tiffany Sostar
Tiffany is a writer, editor, academic, and animal lover who came late to her appreciation of pets. At 18, a rescue pup named Tasha saved her from a depression and she hasn't looked back. She has worked as the canine behaviour program coordinator for the Calgary Humane Society, and was a dog trainer specializing in working with fearful and reactive dogs for many years. She doesn't have any pets right now, but makes up for it by giving her petsitting clients (and any dogs she comes across on her frequent coffee shop adventures) extra snuggles.

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