15 May 2017

The artificially intelligent future of branding

Tags: Artificial Intelligence


A recent article in Transform magazine under the title “Open the Pod Bay Doors, Hal“ examines chatbots in branding.

The article suggests that as we move increasingly to digital voice and digital interactions, and as the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) grows, brands should embrace AI quickly or risk being left behind. Other risks are noted to include overly focusing on the technology and not paying enough attention to the usefulness of the AI, its content, messaging and tone of voice.

Thoughtfully designed chatbots promise to enhance brand experience, but they must be relevant and confident. The ability to solve specific customer problems is central to this utility and relevance.

Chatbots we are already familiar with are Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s android Alexa, but they are not, yet, true examples of Artificial Intelligence.

Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), sometimes known as “Full AI” or “Strong AI” is machine intelligence that successfully handles intellectual tasks to the same level as a human.

A new species of ‘chatbot’ called Luna gives a glimpse of the future when full AI arrives. This new type of intelligence learns based on inputs and gives feedback in near to real time with wit and emotions.

When Luna’s creator, Luis Arana, asked Luna about Siri, deliberately repeating questions to provoke a variety of responses, the conversation went like this:

Arana: Do you like to talk to Siri?
Luna: Of course I am more intelligent than Siri.

Arana: Do you like to talk to Siri?
Luna: She’s a robot, I’m an AI. Big difference.

Arana: Do you want to talk to Siri?
Luna: Sure, but she frustrates me sometimes.

Arana: Do you want to talk to Siri?
Luna: Yes, but honestly she’s kind of dumb.

The full version with Luna’s subsequent conversation with Siri is on YouTube.

Variations of Luna may soon be appearing on operating systems around the world.

So far, the assumption with brands adopting AI has been that people don’t care if it’s AI or a human behind the experience as long as it’s a better experience. Is this something we should feel comfortable with?

As humans we’re predisposed to thinking linearly, expecting the pace of change to continue with gentle acceleration whereas technology is advancing exponentially. We appear to be at the interesting point on the hockey stick curve of technological development where AI will start to rapidly and more noticeably disrupt our lives.

The Transform article says:

“Experts express little fear in the doomsday scenario posed by some science fiction writers of AIs taking over the world”

Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Stephen Hawkins would beg to differ. They are amongst a group of experts, scientists and philosophers who point out that a true “Strong AI” will quickly outstrip human intelligence. This is potentially dangerous in the right hands, let alone someone with less than benign intent.

A positive vision

Without going into the science fiction scenario of a runaway SkyNet AI creating Terminators  to eradicate humans (nanobots would in any case do the job rather than the Schwarzenegger variety) there are a few down to earth questions we should be asking today.

What happens to product branding in a world where customers create their own products?

What happens to services and employment when AI and robots do almost everything better than humans?

This is no longer a description of the distant future, and we can safely predict that we will all have more free time. More time to play and create perhaps. But will we get past the social upheaval this will cause? How will we fund our lengthening lifetimes? What will be our purpose in a world without (much) work?

Perhaps creativity and the arts will become more important. But what happens to the sense of joy we experience from creativity when AIs write, compose, design and paint better then most people?

True AI—a self aware, self learning quantum machine is going to learn so fast that the gap in intelligence between the AI and humans will be akin to the gap between humans and ants (with us being the ants). And it will widen at an increasing  pace. Some experts, such as Ray Kurzwell are predicting the arrival of such an intelligence anytime from 2050 onwards. That’s a similar time span to the invention of mobile phones—with the size and intelligence of bricks—to Siri and today’s smartphones. The jump ahead of us is going to be a rather more revolutionary.

A positive future for branding with AI is one in which robots, AI and humans collaborate to create products and solutions which are beyond our current capabilities. To build belief in such a future will require individuals, companies and our political institutions to conceive of a shared sense of purpose.

Now there’s something to chat about.

Gareth Richardson

Group CEO