Pervasive or Progressive? Part 1
How pervasive is technology in our lives today? Is it the answer to information’s storage, accessibility and visibility problem? How do we explore an unknown world without leaving home? How do we connect and share expertise through visual, immersive technology of the future, today? This is the first of three articles on future technology and their potential issues and uses in the publishing industry and the wider commercial world.
I shared this article on LinkedIn earlier this month, which details a number of key points from Accenture’s recent report titled Accenture Technology Vision 2018. The first of which states that:
“Four out of five executives (81 percent) agree within the next two years, AI will work next to humans in their organizations, as a co-worker, collaborator and trusted advisor.”
“Eighty percent of executives believe it will be important to leverage XR solutions to close the gap of physical distance when engaging with employees and customers.”
“Eighty-two percent of executives say their organisations are increasingly using data to drive critical and automated decision-making at unprecedented scale.”
Do these predictions scare you? Some would consider the technologies referenced as possible threats to jobs, to corporate culture and to customer privacy. Alternatively, I see this technology as providing an opportunity to increase business efficiency, improve communication and enhance decision-making processes on a major scale.
This series of articles looks at three of the technologies referenced here, offering insight into the general use of artificial intelligence, virtual reality and augmented reality in corporations, and specifically to leverage expertise to build a smarter world. I refer to multiple sources to bring together the conversation from numerous industries.
First, to look at artificial intelligence.
Jen Thoroughgood’s recent article explains both sides of the coin for publishers:
"What are the possibilities? When it comes to AI, the main benefit to publishers seems to be the opportunity it offers for better user understanding, leading to more targeted delivery of content, a personalised user experience. Know the user better, give them more of what they want (or seem to want as indicated by past behaviour) and the more time they will spend with your content, the argument goes."
So, what are the flaws?
“…at the same time [however], as algorithms learn what content we consume, we find ourselves in echo chambers, delivered an ever-decreasing range of sources, experiences and viewpoints. What we act like we want isn’t necessarily what we desire when it comes to content consumption.”
Algorithms, previously, have only been able to go so far in understanding customers and audience behaviour. As any good marketer or researcher will tell you, consumers are not 'rigid' beings in either behaviour or purchasing patterns. We like new and different things all the time. Machine learning with the capacity to understand and even predict irregular patterns, however, will be very exciting not only for publishers but for many industries, helping to better understand those they are targeting or indeed to better understand the wider world...
As Lucas N. Joppa, Microsoft’s chief environmental officer relates in this article from Springer Nature's Grand Challenges:
“Today's powerful digital technologies can help us keep close tabs on natural systems”.
A great example of this comes from a farm in Nepal, as related in David Heiner and Carolyn Nguyen’s article on OECD's The Forum Network, a story you simply have to have to read to realise the true power of artificial intelligence technology and its potential to improve lives in a truly meaningful and positive way. As stated in the same piece:
“AI developed in this manner can help people achieve more in nearly any field of human endeavor.”
NESTA Chief Executive, Geoff Mulgan, however, “expect[s] a bumpy ride” for the future of artificial intelligence while governments invest in and experiment with it, as detailed in this recent article, also on the OECD Forum Network. Although advancements are being made, Geoff questions why governments "largely depend on the spill-overs from the military or from commercial developments" for understanding of how this technology can be best utilised, as opposed to R&D into the possibilities of its application in other government sectors such as tax and welfare, education and criminal justice.
Potentially worrying is also the research being done into 'deep brain stimulation (DBS)’ where “doctors use tiny electrodes directly inserted into the brain to deliver zaps that give brain circuits a boost.” This seems alarming but it...
“is already clinically approved to stop seizures in severe epilepsy and reduce tremors in Parkinson’s disease. Scientists also think that it could help people with memory loss from Alzheimer’s disease or trauma”
as Shelly Xuelai Fan, Neuroscientist and Vantastic Media Science writer explains in this article on the npj Science of Learning Community. These are the sort of implications of this technology that I am most encouraged by and eager to see more of in the near future.
When it comes to the concern over job security and economy inefficiencies due to machine replacing man, this TED talk from Daniel Susskind will put your mind at ease. As Daniel explains, considering a national economy or even the global economy as a pie with GDP value making up the sections of the pie, machine learning and AI technologies will serve to increase the size of that pie by complementing current and also future jobs. This talk is well worth watching for further insight into the 'Myths about the future of work (and why they're not true)'.
Technology such as a AI should not be attempted to be leveraged simply for it’s potential or for the sake of using ‘futuristic tech’ as it requires a sophisticated application to benefit processes on a grand scales. For B2C and B2B media publishers however, AI has the power to “identify trends and spot opportunities to create valuable insights” for subscribers. Furthermore, it can be
“used to analyse user behaviour, possibly to identify segments interested in new niche content, or spot the warning signs of a disengaged subscriber who might lapse.”
as described by Carolyn Morgan, InPublishing last month. This is a truly necessary and relative utilisation of this technology and should therefore be considered by all publishers as a means of reconnecting with lost audiences and prevent current readership from moving away from your expert content.
I think this piece puts it best to simply keep a personal, human touch with followers, customers and audiences when it comes to sales approaches in utilising this highly robust and potentially effective technology.
You will find a conclusion to this article and the series as a whole following two further articles, one on virtual reality and another on augmented reality. Watch this space!