In episode 73 of podcast ‘Review The Future’, the hosts interview Calum Chace, author of the book ‘The Economic Singularity: Artificial Intelligence and the Death of Capitalism’. The three discuss the long-term implications of the improvement of artificial intelligence (AI) so that it can now effectively replace humans in more and more tasks; a discussion that covers consequences for areas as diverse as employment, income distribution, welfare systems, or capitalism.
It is a fascinating discussion, though slightly anxiety-inducing! After all, as Chace notes, it is not even necessary for AI to be good enough to replace humans in a certain area (say, driving) for its effects (on employment, income, etc…) to be felt. All we need is for perceptions about AI’s ability to replace humans to take hold.
Anxiety aside, the discussion is also extremely stimulating if we start considering the resulting opportunities in terms of new products and services. This post outlines my initial ideas about such opportunities.
Here we go.
The key premise of the podcast discussion is that AI will continue to improve to a point where it can replace humans, at an advantage, in most areas of economic life.
This premise is encapsulated in the book’s blurb, which reads:
“Artificial intelligence (AI) is overtaking our human ability to absorb and process information. Robots are becoming increasingly dextrous, flexible, and safe to be around (except the military ones).
(W)ithin a few decades, most humans will not be able to work for money. Self-driving cars will probably be the canary in the coal mine, providing a wake-up call for everyone who isn’t yet paying attention. All jobs will be affected, from fast food McJobs to lawyers and journalists. This is the single most important development facing humanity in the first half of the 21st century.”
The implication of this premise is that those whose skills can be replaced by AI, will lose. By contrast, those that control access to AI and those whose skills can not be replaced by AI will win.
The podcast discussion considers three areas in which humans have an advantage over AI: Artistic vision, Attention, and Status. And this is what I think they mean.
Artistic vision – the ability to conceive of a work of art (e.g., a painting or a story). Though, it is perfectly possible for AI to execute that work of art (such as producing a digital picture or 3D sculpture; or stringing sentences together to write a book).
Attention – the ability to share experiences, consciously (e.g., attending a concert together and sharing in the emotion; or reading a blog post and engaging with the ideas expressed in that post).
Status – the ability to perceive that someone is better than their peers in some significant dimension, and acting accordingly (e.g., by praising that person, trusting their judgment, or trying to gain their favour).
So, what do this premise and these three exceptions mean in terms of opportunities for new products and services?
Here are my initial ideas. I am very conscious, however, that these suggestions are rather narrow, because I am neither an entrepreneur nor a futurist. So, I am looking forward to hear what opportunities you can spot.
>> Ubiquitous use of AI
Much like those selling maps, buckets and spades benefited from the gold rush, or e-commerce consultants and website developers benefited from the internet bubble, those providing AI related advice and equipment are likely to benefit from the popularisation of AI.
Consulting services are likely to be in demand, particularly those around strategy and change management. There are also some opportunities around the manufacture, deployment and maintenance of AI equipment. And, also, some opportunities around the design and maintenance of software, though there are limitations here around machine learning applications.
>> Artistic vision
While AI may be able to string materials, colours and words together, it can not consciously create a piece of art that is meant to elicit a particular emotion or reaction.
Of course, the programme may learn that certain names or words are associated with a topic or a sentiment, and combine them in different ways in order to elicit a certain response – for instance, as measured by the sentiment analysis of customer feedback. However, I think that AI will always be lagging behind the human artist, here, in terms of sensing, responding to, or even moulding human sensitivity.
Some people crave attention, the others want to express it, and companies that facilitate the transfer of that attention can win. For instance, companies that offer platforms that make it easy for the two parties to get together – like the Airbnb or the Uber of attention.
Or companies that produce technology that bridge the gap between attention givers and attention seekers – like what Skype did for communication.
The issue with status is that it needs some sort of certification – e.g., you need a title (like a university degree), or a symbol (like a logo on your website) or a measure (like a Klout ranking). So, entities that confer or certify whatever form of status is valid in that AI-dominated world, could do very well.
The other issue with status is that it is dynamic. It can increase or decrease, because of what is happening to your source of status (i.e., whether you are getting more of whatever your status is based on), and to others (i.e., if more people acquire the source of status, the value of your ‘stock’ decreases). So, it seems to me that the providers of services that amplify status can do very well… much like investment bankers or wealth managers can increase your wealth, currently, by getting you return for your investment and/or making sure that you get more return than the market’s average.
Your turn: let your imagination run, and tell me who wins as AI becomes more and more popular. I can’t wait to read your ideas.
3 thoughts on “Artificial intelligence and new marketing opportunities”
There’s no winning or losing the game but our destiny, as a race and the outcome that has little correlation with the Chace’s visions of the future. Here is my take on why, if I may: In his books, Chace frequently pendulates between depictions of a utopian future to portrays of dystopic prospects, where the machines could take over and ultimately obliterate the humanity.
And that is ok as that is his job as a writer, as a science fiction novelist, that sees philosophy as “sci-fi in fancy dress.” His words not mine. Not taking anything away from Chace as from a sci-fi reader point of view, I think he does an excellent job in presenting the pros and contra arguments for superintelligence.
However, he fails to realise or knowingly ignores, that transhumanism, by definition, implies the augmentation of the human being, evolving beyond our mental and physical limitations, by scientific and technological means.
In his books, Chace is using various technological advancements, with a focus on the AI, in particular, to replay the “end of the world” scenario. This time in a modern type of apocalypse, technologically induced. In his philosophical speculations, the author grants human traits to the AI, such as hunger for resources, or the desire of taking over the military arsenal, leading to uncontrollable results.
In fact, in a recent Youtube interview he calls the humans as “pretty smart organisms” having to get ready for the “superintelligence” before it arrives. Calling the AI a “being” thus painting it almost like an alien race, descending from the outer space, at a given time, instantly taking over the world, forcing the humanity to ensure its readiness.
If you like sci-fi, the synopsis is excellent, quite like in a Marvell movie with superpower heroes and an evil alien race. From a scientific, logical perspective, that does not make much sense. Understanding that the AI is just another tool in the hands of humanity, rather than an alien race or a sort of holy spirit that is about to breathe life into robots, make them conscious, evil, and capable of deeming the human race obsolete and irrelevant, is paramount.
The machine, the robots, the AI, call it as you like, are never going to take over the human race, leave people jobless or even obliterate. It is true, technological evolution is replacing repetitive tasks, and it has been happening for the last twenty years in the auto industry, agriculture, food and heavy industry.
In reality, by replacing the slow, repetitive tasks and jobs, technology has created new, more intelligent types of employment. Let’s look at fashion industry for example where machines have replaced repetitive tasks like sewing, painting or pattern making. It did not happen overnight, leaving masses of people unemployed. It took decades; it is a gradual process.
In the advertising and marketing, the technological transformation has become even more visible. From the classic way of interacting, using a pen, paper and a telephone we have shifted to an online, digital world. Social media, mobile phones, instant, global internet access, replacing old jobs while creating many more new businesses, jobs and opportunities that didn’t exist ten years ago.
If I may use the comparison, it is just like Lavoisier’s law: “Rien ne se perd, rien ne se crée, tout se transforme.” In translation, “Nothing is lost, nothing is created; everything is transformed.”
So where is the problem? As the leading AI researcher, Rodney Brooks writes: “I think the worry stems from a fundamental error in not distinguishing the difference between the very real recent advances in a particular aspect of AI and the enormity and complexity of building sentient volitional intelligence.”
In computer science, an ideal “intelligent” machine is a flexible rational agent that perceives its environment and takes actions to maximise its chance of success at certain goals.
But, for the sake of the argument, let’s ignore for a moment that the AI is, in fact, a research “discipline,” including natural language processing, planning, reasoning, knowledge, perception; requiring computational intelligence, statistical methods, mathematical optimisation, probability, machine learning e.g. soft computing. A field that’s drawing upon mathematics, computer science, psychology, neuroscience, linguistics, artificial psychology and philosophy and let’s simply assume that the AI is already here. “Baked” and ready for us to use, as a tool or as we please.
The truth is, the human race has always used technology to expand its abilities, to transcend its limitations, to overcome its boundaries, to extend its mindware, since the beginning of the times. From the sticks we have handled to gain access to the higher fruits in the trees, to the rocks we used to make the spears for hunting, we have always used “tools” to augment our skills, to extend our thoughts, our reach and vision.
Technology is, in fact, us, our second skin, our extended phenotype, we do not end where our skin and tissue ends but we are connected, bound by our technological tools and surroundings. What we design, designs us back because, ultimately, what we design is, in fact, us.
You see, we have used technology to create clothes to cover our bodies, to make fire, to build cars, to replace hips, femurs, kidneys and even hearts. We are, once again, using a new tool to increase our capabilities, to improve our brains, and this new tool is called the AI.
We are at a pivotal point in the human history as we have now decommissioned the natural selection. We are not the same species we were 50.000 years ago, and we are not the same species we are going to be 1.000 years from now. For the first time, we can decide whom we become. We can transcend from the physical into the virtual and augmented realms. We are becoming the software that writes its hardware; the life itself has matured into a canvas, and we have emerged as the artist.
More than that, as we are biochemical constructions, machines that can be informationally disassembled and decoded to the most fundamental levels, from the DNA to the structural thoughts and the algorithmic composition of emotions and our technological creations, we and our tools mirror the most advanced systems we find in nature.
The internet, for example, is wired like the neurones in our brain, sharing the same intertwined filamentary structures. The difference between born and made, us and nature, is thinning. Everything is nature, and everything is us, the artificial intelligence including, and one must understand that for the AI to become a superintelligence, Chase is describing in his books, the exceptions you have posted, (artistic vision, attention, and status) are long deciphered. Either by us, the creators or by the AI itself, developing its own emotional algorithms.
The world has become computable, the matter is now programmable, life itself is computable. The human race is evolving to its next stage, the transhuman level, this time employing not the spear and the fire, but a much more powerful weapon, the AI, maybe as an implantable chipset to start with.
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However, to answer the question – as I have diverted to the survival of the human race – the AI, in its evolution or, better said in its actual form, offers massive benefits for marketers. Best example, my last twitter post: Harnessing social media with the help of AI, from accurately diagnosing depression to predicting future fashion trends. The most beautiful part? This is just the beginning.
Wasted 1 hour listening to a guy that makes no distinction between automation, Siri and super intelligence, introducing UBI as a way of making technology more tolerable for masses. Not all lost thanks to Ted’s very subtle sarcasm.