Artificial intelligence: The good, the bad and the ugly

At Pure360 we love technology – it allows us to make smarter decisions, automate manual tasks and improve experiences.

Our tools rely on artificial intelligence, like machine learning, which helps our clients drive better, more efficient businesses and generate more insightful and effective marketing campaigns.

But as a technology provider we’re all too aware of the natural skepticism that surrounds article intelligence and automation – the fear that computers have got a little too clever and even a bit creepy.

Many people still see artificial intelligence as a threat and something to be scared of. And most surprisingly it’s not the older generation who are feeling the fear – the majority of these people are Millennials (Access AI, 2016). Perhaps that’s not so shocking when you consider Hollywood feeds them a constant stream of films depicting a dystopian future where technology rules over humans with a cold, iron fist.

In today’s post we put the fantasy world aside and ask: when is artificial intelligence a force for good? Not just in marketing but in wider society. We put forward the pros and cons and ask what constitutes responsible use of the latest developments and where the line should be drawn.

Personalisation and the bubble

Thanks to behavioural targeting we can offer audiences an unprecedented level of personalisation. We can surround them with targeted offers, tailored content and present them with the most relevant choices based on their behaviours. It all makes for a more pleasant environment in which to interact – we only see the information we want and can cut straight to the chase with content filtered especially for us.

In the world of email marketing and ecommerce it’s a dream come true but in social media it’s become a controversial subject. Some claim we’ve created a bubble – an online world where we’re only being exposed to people and opinions that are similar to us. Sounds great but it can entrench opinions, lead to complacency and result in us disengaging with different viewpoints, creating social divides (Wired, 2016). It seems there’s a fine line between personalisation and isolation and we need to keep conversing in the real world to maintain a sense of balance, realism and connection.  

Automation and choice

We can now automate previously manual, mind-numbing tasks that drained both our time and energy. Automation creates one-to-one communications that can be triggered by actions or predefined rules making the lives of the marketer and consumer far more efficient. We can get what we want instantly without needing to manually crunch data, respond or wait around for answers. And when it comes to customer service or communication, automation is ideal as we can present customers with what we want, when we want.

But in life there will always be processes that are done best in-person. They rely on the human touch and our deep-seated values, emotional responses and personal experiences. For example, we may be comfortable when our marketing or communications are automated but what about voting in elections? The data on our previous behaviours, patterns and preferences could be used to predict and even automate a vote. Do we trust the technology enough to make the right decision or does it make assumptions that override our core values? Can it really account for the unpredictable nature of human behaviour? We’ll leave you to decide but we’re not too sure we’d be comfortable with relying on machines to decide on subjective decisions with humanitarian outcomes.

Big Data and trust

We have an unprecedented amount of information about other people –  we can track and record their purchases, behaviours and actions to tell us what they want and what they’re likely to do. We can deliver timely and personalised one-to-one communications tailored to each recipient and give gentle nudges to prompt behaviour. It makes customers feel like brands ‘get them’ and makes marketing feel like an easy interaction with a company who understands.

But data needs to be freely exchanged for the benefit of both the consumer and the business – if it’s a one-sided affair it leads to mistrust and manipulation. Take fake news for example – reports in Das Magazin (The Motherboard, 2017) suggested that strategists in both the Brexit campaign and the US presidential election used data gathered from social media activity to feed specific fake news stories to highly targeted segments to influence votes. It shows data harvested and used without knowledge or consent can be used to manipulate and control.

So what is the moral of the story when it comes to modern technology and humanity?  It’s about using the data and technology in a way that all the parties involved understand and consent to. It all boils down to respecting free will, freedom of choice and protecting privacy – if you operate with those principles in mind then it’s undoubtedly a force for good.

And there’s no need to be scared of our intentions – we promise our techies have no dark aspirations to rule the world, manipulate thoughts or launch weapons using the Pure360 platform!

They’re a principled bunch happy with limiting their powers to developing helpful tools which make for more enjoyable experiences for all.