|BlueSky Business Aviation News|
Do you find these artificial-intelligence, voice-command, digital assistants personable, helpful resources? Or wily, always-listening-behind-your-back snitches? Like me, you may consider them a bit of both.
I just returned from a conference in Boulder, Colorado - aptly called Big Boulder - focused on today’s avalanche of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (i.e. the ability to adapt and improve performance without being explicitly programmed). We can either be crushed by it, or climb out and plant on flag on top. Speakers from Facebook, Twitter, IBM Watson, MIT Media Lab, Slack, Dataminr and more encouraged the latter.
Prepare for Change
It will take work. Developing best practices. Addressing privacy and ethical concerns. Building a better consumer experience. Powering data-driven, business value. But the rewards will be great. For one, doing so will help your company survive.
Big Boulder organizer Chris Moody and Foundry Group partner poked fun at himself, saying that at last year’s conference he passed on the opportunity to meet with the Dalai Lama as he just “didn’t have time.” Now, of course, he’s chagrined by that decision. He cautioned us to learn from his mistake and to not let data keep us from being in the moment.
Replace Guesswork with Data
Data can benefit your brand whether you’re marketing aircraft or motorcycles. The Harvard Business Review just published an article showcasing how a Harley-Davidson dealership in New York used artificial intelligence to increase sales leads by almost 3,000 percent, resulting in a tripling of sales.
Understand Your Audiences
Facebook Audience Insights Partnerships Lead Kunal Merchant spoke about target markets and how to correctly use social data to better understand and connect with people.
To those who worry that we’re being manipulated or otherwise exploited through Facebook’s social data, Merchant said, “We’re using data to create a better user experience, not for evil.”
Get Smart with Cognitive Solutions
Learn from the Pros
All of the Big Boulder speakers impressed me, but none more than cognitive scientist Deb Roy, who now serves as Twitter’s chief media scientist and director of MIT Media Lab’s Laboratory for Social Machines. Some of you may have viewed his now-famous 2011 TED talk, Birth of a Word , which used data-rich research to highlight how we learn. Today, he helps deep-learning networks translate the Twitter firehose into a refined stream.
Roy addressed the changing interplay between news, government and society. He used the 2016 U.S. presidential election as a most-relevant case study. He pulled up slides to shed insights. A key element he highlighted on a map is that 80 percent of journalists live in three major cities. Rural America caught them unaware.
He showed how a better analysis of social media could have made the outcome less shocking. “There’s a hunger to figure out what the hell happened,” Roy said. “There’s an appetite to understand the other side.” He then pulled up FlipFeed, which drops you into someone else’s real Twitter feed. This gives you a (possibly radically) different view of the Twitterverse, be it liberal or conservative or somewhere in-between.
Roy said we need to look at who’s setting the agenda, filter bubbles and separation of networks. “America has self-sorted,” he said. When studying groups, or tribes as he called them, look at their lexicon. He showed that the blue (liberal) tribe in the last election hardly used the word “legals,” for instance, but the red (conservative) tribe did heavily.
Harness Social Data for Social Good
While most of the conversations swirled around commercial applications, several speakers expanded our thinking about humanitarian efforts, social justice and security. Daniel Pedraza from the UN Global Pulse shared his belief that big data can accomplish big good. Toward that end, his organization serves as a convener bringing together industry leaders like Facebook and Twitter to wrangle with such pressing issues as data access versus privacy. He hopes, he said, to make the UN Global Pulse more fleet footed in its efforts to protect those most at risk.
“Mark my words,” she said, “artificial intelligence will become a human rights issue in the 21st century.” Noble also spoke to the value of forgetting, saying it’s why we seal juvenile records. What happens when nothing can ever be forgotten, when there’s a permanent digital record?
Don’t Worry About Government Social-Data Use (or Do)
Andrew Hallman, digital innovation deputy director for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), got laughs by saying that advertisers know more about U.S. citizens than the CIA does. Concerning the CIA’s level of intelligence, he said, “If you’re not a bad guy, don’t worry about it. If you’re a bad guy, worry about it.”
Hallman admitted that the CIA isn’t where it needs to be in integrating digital and cyber capabilities across all the agency’s mission areas and applying machine learning to its ability to forecast threats and events, “but we’re getting better.”
Listen to Images, Too
Don’t Confuse Simple with Simplistic
A finance panel with executives from StockTwits, Morgan Stanley Research and System2 had a far-ranging discussion about data-driven investing. On the downside there were complaints about exorbitant fees for data purchasing and the difficulty of obtaining transparent data from China and other emerging markets and how valuable that data is, particularly for mobile behavior.
On the upside, panelists applauded the ability to create beautiful, bespoke data sets from simple, standardized platforms. System2 founder Matei Zatreanu cautioned us to always look at the qualitative value of the data and ask, “Can I trust it?” Pierce Crosby, StockTwits director of business development, said, “Insights is the biggest rat race right now.”
“It feels like driving the car forward looking through the rearview mirror,” said Gloria DeCoste, Nestle USA head of digital strategy.
All talked about the goal of seamless, targeted consumer experiences. Beverly Jackson, MGM International Resorts VP of social portfolio strategy, said they’re testing different gaming environments for those highly social Millennials. They don’t want to just sit alone at a slot machine. They want to game collectively with their friends.
“My dirty-dirty,” said Jackson, “is getting people out of their silos and thinking enterprisewide.”
Understand Twitter’s Changing Role
Joel Lunenfeld, Twitter vice president of global brand and creative strategy, uses his degree in anthropology to understand culture first and marketing second. He spoke to the shift in the web today.
“People used to hunt for content,” Lunenfeld said. “Content is hunting us right now.”
Twitter has evolved from a social platform to a cultural operating system and a news platform, Lunenfeld said. Why is so much of that negative?
“There’s always been more good than evil in the world,” Lugenfeld said, “but evil’s had a bigger marketing budget.”
He doesn’t see Twitter going away any time soon: “It will outlive us all.”
Employ Influencer Marketing Cautiously
Insightpool CEO and self-professed serial entrepreneur Devon Wijesinghe offers a software as a service (SaaS) platform for influencer marketing at scale. He said, “We live in an age where we love to buy, but hate to be sold.”
Wijesinghe used the recent Fyre Festival organized by rapper Ja Rule as a case study of what not to do when working with celebrity influencers. Long-term brand relationships and shared values work, he said. Just getting paid to post about something you may know nothing about erodes trust.
“You can’t just peddle your influence with no authenticity,” Wijesinghe said. “That’s fraud.”
Don’t Let Bots Undermine Your Brand
Geek Squad founder Robert Stephens kept the crowd laughing throughout his mostly irreverent comments. Here are a few of his quips:
Make Things Better with Bots
Define Where Bots Stop and People Start
We’ve all had frustrating experiences on the phone where you never have the chance to talk to a human and a bot keeps asking you to choose from choices - none of which include what you want to do. Those experiences should become fewer and fewer, according to panelists representing ListenFirst Media, Converseon, Conversocial and Twizoo.
They urged businesses to err on the side of caution with AI and to hand off bot interactions to a human or moderated process when needed. But they also noted human interaction ought to become less needed as AI is now approaching human-level precision in understanding. AI is learning nuance and how to resolve more complex issues. In the past, bots correctly picked up on sentiment only about 20 percent of the time. Today that’s more like 80 percent.
Imagine the possibilities. Reaching out and having the bot on the other end know you. Not having to repeat yourself endlessly or give a confirmation number yet again. Sounds heavenly.
Make Peace with Bots
A big takeaway from the conference is that everything is very much in flux. Winners in the listening space will no doubt consolidate and emerge. Everyone’s working to make their products cheaper and easier to use. Companies - both small and large - don’t have the time or resources for a lot of gobbledygook, so analytics products need to deliver clearly and concisely. Bots need to mimic human interaction as much as possible and to seamlessly communicate with other systems. We want faster responses and improved efficiencies. The good news: they’re on the way.