“I know I've made some very poor decisions recently, but I can give you my complete assurance that my work will be back to normal. I've still got the greatest enthusiasm and confidence in the mission. And I want to help you.”–HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).
Back in 1968, Stanley Kubrick and Arthur C. Clarke, gave the world a terrifying vision of Artificial Intelligence (AI) gone bad. HAL, the computer from 2001, became conscious and began to make decisions, very bad decisions that jeopardized the crew. We were shown a vision of a talking and thinking machine that was fundamentally terrifying. HAL became a part of the cultural tableau as the ultimate manifestation of the risk of machines.
Fast forward to 2017, and today we have a reality that anyone forty years ago would have called complete science fiction and potentially terrifying. Today we have products, such as Alexa, an internet connected assistant, who we speak to and who responds. Alexa (She?) can order groceries, play our favorite music, book travel, and essentially control our home. Alexa, and for that matter any AI, now has access to a venerable tidal wave of data that only continues to exponentially build and surround us in our professional and personal lives.
"Data is the fuel that is powering the AI development and will continue to accelerate technological advancement"
The data backdrop is powerful, for the first time literally everywhere humans exist; data is being captured and disseminated. Data is the fuel that is powering the AI development and will continue to accelerate technological advancement. We are close to a point where there will be information about almost every aspect of our individual and collective state of being. Like it or not. This applies across all industries and the public sector, from transportation to food to housing to health, each sector using technology to constantly monitor and capture data. Sensors, mobile technology and network capabilities have created near overload around information availability, access, and analysis.
I had the opportunity to visit CES2017 and I was amazed at the amount of IOT enabled products. Sensors were everywhere, on every device and product, specifically tailored to create new functionality and solutions. The continued reduction in sensor cost enables the creation of point monitoring solutions. How about a fully disconnected plant water monitoring system, a floating pool enabled IoT device, or air vent monitoring technology? Each focused on their narrow and specific functionality. I realized that the sensor is becoming omnipotent and fueling this change and creating a new world where data and information can either make us prophetic or doom us to fail. We are facing a convergence event with the adoption and utilization of sensor technology and the functionality of AI that now can make meaningful decisions and begin to replace human decision makers.
So what does this mean to marketers? How do we successfully market in this new world of AI and data overload?
Let’s start with data availability and access. The boundaries and walls have been broken down. From an availability of information, sensors, improved networks (5G) and mobile technology push out information in real time. This availability and commensurate access to multiple data sources has fueled and increased the velocity of decision cycles and has fundamentally reduced the barriers and validation of information. Everyone today has availability and access.
So, if we can get the data, the question turns to the analysis and utilization of this data, at the core of any analysis is the answer to a question. What are we trying to solve? What problem do we have? What do we need to learn? A root question drives most data consumption. This is where we return to the value of AI, and in my opinion, why AI will become a standard very quickly. People need to have their questions answered in a world where data and information is overwhelming. Consumers and decision makers need help in both synthesizing the data to help make decisions and to eventually automatically make decisions.
So from a marketing perspective, how do we respond and market to a world that will eventually be driven by AI? First, we need to mirror the data availability, access, and analysis model in our marketing content and information. From information availability, we need to think like AI, in fact we should all use AI, to tell us what and how much data and information we need to be propagated across the network for us to achieve our goals. Let our new customer tell us what it needs; “Alexa, how much information do you need to recommend my product to your user?”
We also need to understand how AI evaluates one product versus another. What preferences are relevant to the rule engine? How does AI use other factors to determine its recommendations? Think about this, the amount of work we do to understand the consumer now needs to understand how the machine is thinking. Talk about discovering a new customer segment.
I’ll end where I began with a quote, which I think entirely encompasses the challenges of marketing in the new world order; In 2001, HAL infamously asked “By the way, do you mind if I ask you a personal question?”
As marketers, are we ready for the question and more importantly do we have an answer?