If you witnessed the death of typewriters, radio cassettes and analogue cameras you will have felt the wobbles of the digital revolution in its early years. Today Artificial Intelligence (AI) makes the headlines as one of the most disrupting forces of our century. In an article published in June 2016, The Economist claimed, “Experts warn that the substitution of machinery for human labour may render the population redundant. They worry that the discovery of this mighty power has come before we know how to employ it appropriately. Such fears are expressed by those who worry that advances in artificial intelligence (AI) could destroy millions of jobs and pose a Terminator-style threat to humanity.”
Another expert, Ray Kurzweil, who is no less than Google’s Director of Engineering, predicts that AI will achieve human levels of intelligence in 2029. That’s 12 years from now. In retrospect, about 12 years ago, Apple’s first iPod killed the Walkman. Considering digital music has now become ubiquitous, can we expect the same success for AI?
So, is AI a Terminator or a wonder power?
If the idea that an omnipotent robot will replace your job as a marketeer keeps you up at night, then carry on reading because there is good news, too.
Let’s start with the cold shower first.
Correct: automation and artificial intelligence will eliminate some jobs, mostly task-oriented chores. Chatbots replacing customer service have proliferated and robots on the factory floor are already a reality. Time-consuming activities and often beyond the scale of what a marketing department can accomplish, such as handling call centres, messaging, identify customer segments, running targeted social advertising, or curating product recommendations based on a user’s other selections are likely to be reinvented by emerging technologies. The recommendation systems of Amazon, Spotify and Netflix are legion in this field.
However, even if computers are able to tackle complex analytical tasks much faster than humans could ever hope to, they are still terrible at human interaction.
In fact, AI is not likely to eliminate all current jobs. Historically, each time a new technology has emerged, it has created more jobs than it destroyed. This is for two main reasons:
- Technology lowers costs, which frees budgets for human capital
- Technology needs to be complemented by skilled workers
To end in a bright note, in the same article The Economist summarises by saying : “AI will not so much replace workers directly as require them to gain new skills to complement it. ”AI will make tasks more human, because marketing knowledge require traits that robots are unable to master, such as empathy, communication and interdisciplinary problem-solving.
In practical terms, how will this affect your team?
We know that integrating technologies such as running a chatbot or using marketing automation affects the dynamics of a team towards becoming more collaborative and cross-functional, as opposed to traditional top-down structures. Typically, the marketing team will work closely with the IT department, technology providers, data scientists and departments that deal with customers. In addition, marketing and sales will work in tandem and potentially be merged into a single ‘commercial department’.
Instead of hiring the most qualified person for a specific task, many companies are now putting greater emphasis on cultural fit and adaptability, knowing that individual roles will have to evolve along with the implementation of new technologies, such as AI. This means that full-stack marketeers are in high demand as a species nowadays.
To conclude on the likelihood that AI will kill your team, rest assured. In the coming years, marketing functions will be spared the widespread automation of jobs. Nevertheless, rather than killing your team, AI and other future technologies will impact how it is organised. As a result, if you decide to make room for innovation within your department, expect to make some changes in your organisational design as well as in your talent pool.
At the House of Marketing, we offer advice about how to make your organisation future-proof by applying an agile structure and by leveraging the most relevant technologies for your business.
The fact that Kodak didn’t capture the full picture when digital photography was first emerging has become a common red alert for leaders facing innovation challenges. What if you were missing the next big thing because you weren’t looking properly, or didn’t know where to look?
We deal with new technologies and marketing on a daily basis and have recorded no Terminator effect so far. Get in touch with one of our experts to discuss what keeps you up at night.
The Economist, The Guardian