It doesn’t matter if you’re the biggest technophobe or if you’re a digital whiz kid, there’s no denying that algorithms are becoming a pervasive part of our lives. Companies like Google know more about us than ever, Amazon can predict our shopping purchases and Facebook likes can be used to distinguish your class, race, gender and an assortment of other attributes that were previously only known by your family, social circle or the government.
The Vivid Ideas talk, Marketing To The Machines -Why Algorithms Will Define The Future Of Absolutely Everything was delivered by two knowledgeable and engaging young creatives from the digital agency, We Are Social. Simon Kemp and Suzie Shaw’s presentation was an interesting and sometimes frightening discussion about the future of data, artificial intelligence and marketing. We share the top nine things that we learnt.
- There are 7.5 billion people in the world and half of us are online. There are also one million new internet users each day.
- Algorithms are being used in so many different aspects of our lives. They are influencing:
* Our relationships (who we “like,” share and comment on)
* Where we go (the GPS uses an algorithm)
* How much we earn (algorithms are used in share trading and by superannuation funds investing our money)
* Who we marry (consider online dating and apps like Tinder)
- Human beings do find algorithms useful. This is because:
* People are overwhelmed by choice (consider that Amazon sell heaps of different things, including thousands of types of jam alone)
* We lack confidence to make informed decisions on complex or confusing subjects
* Algorithms can improve efficiency because we can delegate tasks that are of minimal value or interest to us
* Algorithms can be a source of inspiration because we can be fed more of what we like
- But algorithms have their downfalls. They change our brain function so we tend to have lower rates of recall for information itself and enhanced recall of where to find information. Consider telephone numbers- people don’t often remember these offhand but they do know where they are stored. Algorithms have similar impacts on our decision making.
- We will all eventually have devices like Amazon Alexa and Google Home in our houses. These will be like voice-activated remote controls and ways to change our heating and lighting levels as well as be our “personal assistants” in areas like online shopping. But if we ask these machines to buy us a beer which one will they choose? It is likely to be any one of the following scenarios:
* The device will ask us to specify which brand
* It will default to the one we usually buy or the last one we bought
* It will use social engines to select the brand our social connections purchase
* The platform will decide based on a series of algorithmic inputs
- Google knows everything. They have search history, Gmail, YouTube, Chrome, smartphones, Google Maps, AdWords and Google Home. They have so much data at their disposal that they are having to write algorithms to help analyse this for them!
- Google have also made significant breakthroughs in the area of artificial intelligence, having taught a computer how to beat a Go world champion. They achieved this by getting the algorithms to teach themselves. This same technology (machine learning) is being used to program driverless cars, which human beings are incapable of programming themselves.
- Eventually data ownership may be restored to individuals who can then selectively share their information on a case-by-case-basis with different organisations and institutions.
- The talk also included a discussion on artificial empathy and the pair’s three tips for marketers include:
* Understand where you stand
* Understand your adversary and ultimately,
* Get started in this field!
The Vivid Ideas presentation Marketing To The Machines -Why Algorithms Will Define The Future Of Absolutely Everything was a very illuminating one. The session was sold-out and it was easy to see why. The two speakers from We Are Social had offered us a lot of food for thought and had described things in such practical, appealing and easy-to-understand ways. I bet everyone in the room left there thinking about Kraftwerk’s song “The Robots” and what happens next. Or it could have been just me thinking about Krautrock. But then, the Internet was probably already able to predict that I was going to end on that note…
Vivid Ideas continues through June 17th. For more details head to vividsydney.com/ideas