You can’t replace me with a robot, can you?

What have I been doing for the last 30 years? Turning 50, I feel that there is more to look forward to than look back at. Although I’ve lived and worked through some of the biggest technological and political changes to grace this planet, I’m really hungry for more. I’ll avoid the political in this post, because I believe what will be, will be. However, with technology it’s different because we can predict fairly accurately what will happen in the future. I remember back in 1995, my boss at the time Mark Curtis (now Founder and Chief Strategy Officer at Fjord), proclaiming that “everything that can be mobile, will be mobile” [referring to services on mobile phones]; a few years later it was “everything that can be digital, will be digital”- he was right of course. So where are we now? I think it’s fair to assume that we are now in the realm of the robot.
Futurologist, Gerd Leonard has been talking about this for years, he’s even published a book on the subject last year called ‘Technology vs Humanity’, which is a view on what the near future holds for us all as machine learning becomes an everyday reality. Gerd is a client of ours and his videos and books are worth checking out. The other day, my wife, who is totally bored by my interest in smart tech, said to me whilst looking for the remote control – “Why do I need it to change the channel, surely by now I should be able to just shout at the TV?”. It’s these subtle things that will make the transition to adopting smart machines into our lives both simple and seamless and why robots will be a key part of our evolution in both the short and long term.

Here’s a video of Mr Zuckerberg enjoying AI at home

From a creative agency’s point of view, what could this mean for roles we’ve become used to? Can we use machine learning to make our job faster and more effective or will the creative process forever be a human one? Well I think, if it is going to happen, it will be more likely to happen through social media. We saw last year a very excited Mark Zuckerberg demoing AI at a Facebook developer conference, showcasing its ability (or limited ability) to identify images and describe activities within an image. Now with Facebook feeling more like an advertising platform than a social media platform, how long will it be before AI will be able to craft an ad that will appeal to a user based on his or hers personality, feelings and emotion – on the fly – without the need of any human involvement. AI in advertising technology is already doing this in planning, programming and analysing campaigns, but to me the real leap will be when AI becomes involved in process of creative development – and this doesn’t seem very far away.

Another example of this leap is an article I read about a Microsoft Research scientist trying to make AI more human-like by helping it to understand things on a more abstract level through storytelling. So, if computers are being taught how to do abstract level thinking, does that mean the days of creative people are numbered?

It was believed that creative and emotional thinking were guarded from AI, as the ability to think laterally and to feel emotion would be difficult to artificially create. Now, I’m having second thoughts about this. Scientists now see this as an achievable goal. This is why I feel it is critical for everyone in the creative industry to start thinking about technological advances in AI; how it can make what we do better and how we can use it to create new and valuable creative roles for ourselves – now that’s a brainstorm worth having! In a way, I think the aim is to be in control of its role in our working lives or at least understand the implications now and in the near future, as no one wants to feel that one day soon they will be replaced by a robot!