If you were looking for something sexy to steam-up the tech landscape last year, you got... the Internet of Things (IoT).
It's a game changing concept, to be fair, it just got stuck with a dud of a name.
Well, 2017 is set to fire on all cylinders. Artificial Intelligence (AI) has landed and its got the tech-verse frothing from keyboard to cloud.
Artificial Intelligence - it's here and it's takin' over
Computer science is rapidly catching up to fantasy, and that's pretty darn cool. Not that long ago, we only dreamt of machines with human intelligence and beyond. Now, computers can calculate much faster than people, and without error. Plus, computer memory is highly reliable and potentially unlimited. And, of course, computers can instantly create that perfect playlist for your next barbecue.
But until recently, computers failed at certain tasks that humans mastered with ease. For instance: recognizing faces or emotions, expressing oneself, and understanding the context of a situation.
Efforts to 'program' computers to understand these abstract concepts, failed, largely because we don't know ourselves how to identify the rules that govern those actions. So we went maternal on the problem - we gave the computers some examples to work with, and let them figure stuff out on their own, good old-fashioned trial and error. It's exactly how children master many vital skills, including communication.
Well, those trial and error algorithms are to thank for the current AI revolution. "Deep Learning," for example, enables artificial neural networks to recognize recurrent high-level concepts in data by stacking the concepts of lower levels. For a face, it will first correlate pixels on a photo, then group them and conceptualize its features (eyes, nose, mouth). Finally, it'll group all these concepts to recognize the unique collection of features as a single face. It's thanks to Deep Learning, that Facebook can recognize you in your photos.
Meanwhile, "Reinforcement Learning" is expanding machine intelligence in a different direction - it teaches machines to perform tasks.
First, the machine is given a goal within an environment and with constraints. The task is grouped by iterations until the machine develops an optimal algorithm to carry out the task. It's the same principal used in self-driving cars and employed by Google to defeat Go's best player in the world. Google simply bolstered their artificial intelligence with the qualities of the best players in the world, and then trained the artificial intelligence against itself to become unbeatable.
Want to try your divine hand at creating intelligence? "Open AI" offers a platform called "Universe", which enables you to train your own artificial intelligences, regardless of sector.
Ditch the shackles, AI is getting creative
With the invasion of chatbots in 2016 and the buzz swirling around CES in 2017, it seems that communication and marketing professionals are finally making AI a priority.
Eventually, all communication professionals will be "augmented" with AI. In fact, it can already write novels, short-film scripts, and press articles. In June, The Drum entrusted its publishing reins to "Watson", IBM's Artificial Intelligence. Conde Nast followed suit when the publication conglomerate enlisted Watson to connect with its target influencers.
Marketers too are taking notice of AI's vast potential. Tools like Phrasee, (a semantic analysis engine) can anticipate the impact of words and phrases in your "call-to-action", while Ysance Stories (an AI-driven marketing engine) enables marketers to analyze and influence customers as they progress on their purchase journey.
In the same vein, there are algorithms capable of evaluating emotions through facial expressions and voice tones - perfect for assessing the impact of communication in real time.
AI, a digital you, and the meaning of life...
Tomorrow is a new day and a new era. Graphic User Interfaces (GUI) will give way to Natural User Interfaces (NUI). And the biggest battle in the AI war will rage over the creation of intelligent assistants- much like Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently created for his home.
But you won't have to be a billionaire to afford a digital butler. In fact, we'll each have a copy of ourself in the digital world that will replace our smartphone and serve as an intermediary in our interactions. This assistant will manage all our life logistics and lend its expertise to everything from law and business, to finance and medicine.
The prevalence of these intelligent assistants will also drive changes in marketing strategies - after all, there's no point influencing customers when their needs will be "intermediated" by trusted intelligent assistants.
Instead, companies will strive to sell their goods and services to the assistants first - convincing them that their products are useful for the end user.
For their part, assistants must verify, investigate, and compare what companies propose and then make the final purchase decision. Any mistake or dishonesty by the company will cause the artificial intelligence to "de-reference" that company's marketing, thus removing their opportunity to sell to the individual.
Does the advancement of AI mean the death of marketing as we know it? Probably yes. But it also means a move towards more transparency and empathy in marketing, to keep clients engaged and moving upstream. If the company proves to the client's artificial intelligence that it's honest and delivers quality goods and services, then it can maintain a relationship with the AI and therefore, the client.
Soon, AIs will gain a consciousness and search for meaning and real commitments from their choices. Think less along the lines of the Terminator movies and more about purchasing beyond the product - a universe with values and ways of being.
Love conquers all
In short, the future of digital commerce belongs to the "love brands" - those brands which know how to build strong ties with their consumers and cultivate trust, transparency, and sharing.
Brands which fail in this regard... will be terminated.
Entry co-written with Stephane Mallard - Digital Evangelist at Blu Age