Let’s avoid ‘eye-rolling’ AI predictions in 2018

John Stubley is growing a little weary of the AI bandwagon. And no, the robots aren't coming for your marketing job.

2018 is set to be the year when the words ‘artificial intelligence’ will be bandied around by every man and their dog. Given AI can apply to anything from basic voice recognition through to advanced humanoid robots it’s a pretty broad term and ripe for being misappropriated for companies anxious to attach themselves to the zeitgeist. Expect to see it in every sales deck.

That’s probably why we’ve already seen some eye-rolling from key influencers on the subject including the always vocal Mark Ritson who tweeted: “Here we go. The perennial horseshit about VR/AR/AI peaks as we approach New Year.”

Aside from the prediction that many will proclaim AI will change everything in 2018 and many will continue to call bullshit, my own prediction when it comes to AI in 2018 is that it is going to be an evolutionary and not revolutionary year.

The robots aren’t coming for you just yet, but 2018 will be the year that AI begins to grow up and move towards the mainstream.

Programmatic goes neural

Neural Networks, which are essential a set of algorithms or program which enable a computer to draw human-like conclusions from data, are amongst the most sophisticated forms of AI and they will soon begin to change programmatic trading.

The system’s deep learning abilities will transform pattern recognition capabilities and move our industry closer to the apocryphal ‘right time, right place, right ad’ end game.

Reports of an AI job-apocalypse are wildly exaggerated

Spoiler alert: the robots aren’t coming for your marketing jobs. But over time they will change the skill set required to do your job. This is really just the continuous evolution of required skills since digital transformation. If you’re in the digital advertising ecosystem, you’ve already witnessed plenty of AI-powered automation.

And yet are you really less busy than you were 10 years ago? We will need talented humans to define the way that AI works; in fact, the human factor will likely be the key differentiator in services in the future. That said, if you are a CMO who hasn’t already embraced AI to automate the most trivial tasks and free up time for more creative thinking, then you are probably going to be in trouble.

Safety first

Everyone in the industry is aware of the high-profile brand safety issues that have hit digital during 2017. YouTube’s CEO Susan Wojcicki made a statement on the company blog in early December outlining the steps they were taking to combat it, noting that increasing their use of AI is one of the measures the company is taking.

She stated: “Since we started to use machine learning to flag violent and extremist content in June, the technology has reviewed and flagged content that would have taken 180,000 people working 40 hours a week to assess.”

It would be sensible to assume that in the coming months and years we will see computer vision and AI leveraged much more in the quest to ensure brand safety.

What was once special will become mundane

Increasingly, we will begin to see what we currently think of as ‘special’ or the heavily resourced activations becoming mundane.

Tasks that today typically require marketers to call in an army of data consultants— such as determining the impact of a TV campaign on actual viewers— will be heavily automated.

Whereas current technology selects a few shows for analysis, pretty soon all shows will be routinely analysed. By the time we reach the 2020 and beyond things like rewriting an online product catalogue in your brand voice will be largely automated using natural language generation technologies (and it will be possible to have unique pricing strategies for every product in the new catalogue).

Ultimately though we all have to accept that AI is already fully enmeshed in all aspects of the global economy, and its role will continue to grow as more and more people embrace the value it offers. And while it may be tempting to either catastrophise or evangelise AI, I’d suggest the best approach is to just evolve with it.

John Stubley is managing director at Gum Gum, an artificial intelligence company



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