digital experiences that people love
Fran Allen
Fran Allen
10th Mar 2016

Artificial Intelligence: Scary or cool?

The mother of all battles is taking place this week.  Man takes on machine.  And so far the machine is winning.  Yikes.

Google have developed an AI program called AlphaGo which has learnt how to play the ancient Chinese game of ‘Go’.  Go is a similar game to chess, but played with black and white stones on a grid. But in GO a player has a choice of 200 moves compared with 20 in Chess.  It can be difficult to determine who is winning and many of the top players rely on instinct, and on the ability to read the signs/demeanour of their opponent.

Google threw down the gauntlet.  It challenged Lee Se-dol (‘Go’ World champion) to play 5 games against AlphaGo.  The winner would receive prize money of $1million (Google will donate the money to charity if AlphaGo wins.)

Amongst those in the know, it was not expected that the AI program would be able to beat man for several years yet, but the opposite is proving to be true.  2 of the 5 games have been played this week – and AlphaGo has won both.

As the BBC reports: After the match, world champion Lee Se-dol said: “Yesterday I was surprised but today it’s more than that, I am quite speechless.”

So it seems we are at the beginning of an AI revolution.  Is this the beginning of the end?!  Is this scary or cool? Probably a bit of both, but personally for me it is pretty darn scary!!!

Thinking robots taking over the world and our businesses?  What does that mean for today’s workforce?

AI is already beginning to infiltrate our lives.  Driverless trains and metros are already in operation. Driverless cars? No longer a futuristic dream, they are fast becoming a reality.  Many robotic systems are already in place which use AI such as fire-fighting systems, vacuum cleaners and grass cutters. In industries such as security and health, there are widespread opportunities for AI to not only match but exceed human ability.

But what impact will AI have on our own industry? AI is essentially a logic driven process which condenses time consuming human actions into a fraction of a second. Typically, it searches through massive amounts of data to extract the information needed, and it can provide updates to changing circumstance.  There are obvious applications here for usage within a digital data campaign.  Targeting, segmenting – AI can do it all.

There is no doubt that AI will have a role to play in the digital sphere, particularly in the field of data, but what about the other side of our business?  The creative side?  Surely creativity and design are fundamentally human skills.  We use our imagination, our visual appreciation of aesthetics, our understanding of human nature and emotion to design experiences that other humans will engage with.

As Bo Hellberg (D&AD Executive) writes: “We use upwards of thirty cognitive strategies when we approach a creative problem. We mash things up. We create harmony, discord, symmetry, asymmetry, balance and imbalance deliberately throughout the creative process. It’s not logical, and therefore difficult for machines.”

Another area in which machines fall short of human ability is in their ability to judge and assess.  They can produce content, but they can’t tell you if it is good.  As any creative department will bear witness to, a lot of our work is collaboration and sharing of ideas/criticism/opinion to reach that end product that the client/audience will love.  Do I hear a collective sigh of relief?! We’re safe from the robots!  Well, maybe, for now.  But one thing is for sure, AI is here and here to stay.