The great linguist and cognitive scientist, Noam Chomsky, once put it most eloquently:
“Thinking is a human feature. Will AI someday really think? That’s like asking if submarines swim. If you call it swimming then robots will think, yes.”
It’s a beautiful analogy. Do you believe the submarine is swimming? Of course not. It can travel through water at the command of a Captain, but once the Captain knocks off for the night, the submarine isn’t going anywhere.
But all truth is vulnerable to passing time, and as AI technology advances – Machine Learning along with it – the thought that one day the submarine will swim cannot be quickly dismissed.
AI has already disrupted its fair share of industries (think manufacturing, distribution, logistics) but as it becomes more and more sophisticated and capable, other sectors will have to watch their back. One example of such a sector is marketing, an industry that straddles the line between what AI can currently do, and what it will soon be able to do.
In the modern world, marketing is an industry built around the skeleton of big data; a dizzying amount. All of this data needs to be analysed and transformed into digestible and informative documents. When it comes to tasks like data scraping, sorting and analysis, already the speed and power and capability of AI is unbeatable. Unlike humans, it can’t be distracted, it doesn’t need toilet breaks and it doesn’t make mistakes, in theory.
Surface Level AI in Marketing
Natural Language Generation is a good example of AI’s growing potential. NLG takes structured data and turns it into text. It is already being used within the industry for producing earnings reports, Google Analytics reports and, soon, we’re going to see emails, e-books and blog posts.
NGL, however, is a ‘surface level AI’ and still requires a great deal of human input in order to compose and update narrative templates for the machine to follow. The machines may be able to complete tasks in processing and analytics, but as far as the creative processes of marketing go, it’s still a long way off.
Any content and copywriters out there can breathe a sigh of relief; it seems, for now, your job is safe. In truth, AI in Marketing is currently a blessing. Thanks to its ability to produce the driest of copy, writers have more precious time to focus on the most creative and insightful articles.
Despite this, it’s not all good news for the marketing assistant. AI is advancing through the stages of its evolution, and will eventually lead to computers becoming more intelligent and powerful than our human brain can dream of. They call it Machine Learning and its potential is astounding.
Machine Learning in Marketing
While traditional marketing technology is built on algorithms in which humans code orders for the machines to follow, Machine Learning “enables the machine to create its own algorithms, determine new paths and unlock unlimited potential to advance marketing, business, and mankind.”
Basically, Machine Learning (ML) gives computers the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed, it enables them to change and adapt upon exposure to new data. There are theories that it will, one day, result in a super intelligence that will eventually wipe out our kind. Somewhat frustratingly, nobody seems to be able to pinpoint when that might be.
Adaptation to AI In Marketing Is Key
Bringing it back to today, however, and the question at hand is whether AI in Marketing will eventually replace humans working in the industry. It’s half yes, half no.
As always, if workers are slow or unwilling to adapt their roles away from the areas that can be automated, they will eventually lose out. However, if, for now, marketers can give focus to the parts of their jobs that cannot be automated – advanced writing, design and other creative fields – they stand a better chance of staying relevant. As more time passes and AI does start creeping in on more roles, it will create the need for new jobs that weren’t necessary before. If marketers can adapt to, and acquire training in, these emerging skills, their positions are much more secure.
Marketers Must Get On Board
As AI use increases, so does the need for humans with expert knowledge of the tech. For a marketing professional, understanding how and when to use and manage automation tools will be a big part of securing their role in the future.
As Larry Kotch, co-founder of Brainbroker, says “These things don’t destroy jobs, they just change what jobs are needed”.
According to research by Forrester, AI will destroy 6% of all jobs by 2021. For marketers, this threat is as prominent as ever. But at the moment AI in Marketing remains a powerful accomplice to a productive day’s work and, looking forward, will result in new roles that marketers should already be training themselves in.
It is, after all, simple evolution; it’s survival of the fittest; you adapt or you die. For now, marketing still needs humans in order to work, but, thanks to Machine Learning, we’re not a million miles away from the submarine learning to swim.
Will Darbyshire is Content Strategist at TDMB. Coming to us from the world of PropTech, he is a writer with the dream of combining tech with New Journalism, an obsession with the Spanish guitar and, thanks to a chocolate allergy, an unhealthy relationship with peanut butter.