Crises! Insta-translators! Conspiracies! Self-cleaning litterboxes! These past few years, the come-hither yin of AI-enhanced lifestyles on Pinterest and Instagram has been a calming balm for the OMG yang of dystopian cyber-angst and paranoia found just about everywhere else. Whether you lean toward eager futurism or despondent fatalism—your odds are 50/50—there’s been plenty to keep us all engaged and clicking.
New imaging technology can smooth your facial wrinkles and tone your body (or age you for comic effect as per the Russian FaceApp). Or, upload your face—au naturel or enhanced—to Chinese app Zao and see it swapped onto the body of a famous actor in a favorite movie scene. All lighthearted entertainment, which is more than I can say for the frighteningly serious deepfake videos that are almost impossible to distinguish from the real thing, not to mention the prospect of robots taking over whole swaths of the job market.
Fancy it or fear it, artificial intelligence is a juggernaut that will not pause long enough for anyone to take a breath. Unless you are prepared to swear off your smartphone and go live off-the-grid, you can take it for granted that AI will continue worming its way into your life. Especially if you’re in marketing.
AI will give marketers increasingly powerful tools with which to do our work more effectively. Already, we’re using it to streamline data collation and improve the targeting of brand campaigns. Before we get in any deeper, there’s a question I think we need to consider: How can we be sure we’re using AI for good and not for ill? This question needs more than just good intentions. It needs strong ethical guidelines.
On the plus side, we can use AI to better respect users’ time and attention. Our marketing can become truly responsive to the needs and preferences of individuals. It can be much less about driving traffic and much more about using insights to create valued user experiences that build goodwill and preference.
On the minus side, AI makes it possible to piece together detailed information about individuals without them even being aware of it—potentially great for hey-presto marketing, but not so great for fostering trust. User consent has to be more than an “I agree” box at the end of yet another multi-page end-user license agreement, where clever catches are concealed amidst all the verbiage. As marketers, we have a responsibility to be as upfront as possible about what we’re doing to provide the best service to our customers.
For all the scaremongering about AI, I believe it will have an overall positive effect on our industry—not just making us more effective at work, but also prompting us to spark important conversations about its wider societal implications.
Are you in or are you out? I’ll bet Alexa could tell me.