News & Views

Opinion / Optimistic AI

by Contagious Contributor
Lawrence Weber, managing partner at Karmarama, challenges brands to think about how they can use artificial intelligence to benefit society


NuTonomy’s self-driving cars are on the streets of Singapore

Despite all of the brickbats being hurled at our industry, be it from external regulators or internal agitators, we retain the ability to create change, particularly when we project optimism.

Whether it’s the humble deodorant’s ability to challenge the shackles of male gender stereotypes or the power of charities to galvanise all in the fight against cancer, giving people a sense that they and society can move towards something good, something better, is a powerful thing. Brands with a positive and articulated purpose do better, so research and instinct tell us.

I was reminded of how powerful that ability is – and how necessary it will be as the UK government released its report on how AI will affect society and how well we are prepared for it.

I’ll save you reading the report, if you were tempted, by saying the news isn’t good. Whilst the premise that AI will create as well as destroy opportunity is present in the report, it’s drowned out by the easy and frankly lazy tropes of ‘The bad robots are coming to get us’.

Those messages of fear mean that the press can and did focus on the threat of swathes of the population losing their jobs (The Sun’s banshee-cry headline of “Robochop” being the best/worst of the bunch), forcing the government to be on the defensive from the start of the debate.

The adoption of AI is undoubtedly going to challenge education, industry and social mobility, across the employment spectrum. It also pure hubris to assume that it will be just blue collar workers who find themselves displaced. The impact of AI on our industry is already plain to see. There is no meaningful AI creative direction as yet, but a lot of the media buying choice we make as an industry is already made with an AI companion and augmenting creative choices with data is already something we are, or we should, be doing in creative agencies.

However, rather than focusing on what will be taken away, let’s focus on what AI adds. Let’s be optimists for a moment and focus on the fact that AI will offer us, and our children, unimaginable opportunities if we work with, rather than against, the immense power of AI.

At this point you are probably thinking what role can brands play in what seem like very policy-led, big-picture issues? We could assume that there is nothing we can do, we could assume that decisions will be made by large tech companies and governments. Or we could embrace the change that is coming and start to shape the agenda.

There is one key question that you can ask:

How might AI help truly benefit consumers and society?

If you are a brand that has lots of domain specific data that is being constantly refreshed by your consumers, you can do some good with it if you attach a system that can learn from it.

At a simple level, that means if you are an energy company, you can help people save money and energy by prompting them to have a smart home. If you are a bank you can help people prepare for the future better by prompting them to save and spend wisely.

At a more profoundly life and behaviour altering level, if you are an automotive company, who at some point wants to take the act of driving away from the people who buy your products, think what could you suggest people do when they aren’t driving that improves them and society as a whole?

By focusing on the good they can do with AI, brands can create a more optimistic vision of the future and help consumers understand that the robots might well be coming to help us instead.