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AI Will Unlock the Next Evolution of Humans, Says This Expert
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By: Paul Roetzer

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August 11th, 2020

AI Will Unlock the Next Evolution of Humans, Says This Expert

neil-sahota-headshot-1
This post is part of our AI Experts Series, which profiles leaders whose insights can help expand your understanding of artificial intelligence and how to apply it.
 
Today's spotlight features a conversation we had with Neil Sahota, United Nations AI Advisor and Chief Innovation Officer for University of California at Irvine, School of Law and Paul Merage School of Business

 

AI + You

In a single sentence or statement, tell us what you do.

I am the Sherpa who unlocks those hidden opportunities, the architect that constructs the bridge to those opportunities, and the counselor that creates a safe environment to manage risk and establish buy-in.

How do you define AI? (Or, what’s your favorite definition of AI?)

AI is a machine that can perform cognitive tasks without human supervision and without following a specific pre-defined path. It is not an augmented search engine, but rather a system that can figure out the answer to something people do not have the answer for.

Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO, has stated that, “AI is probably the most profound thing humanity has ever worked on.” Do you agree? Why, or why not?

I do agree. While fire and the wheel have been transformative forces for humanity, AI can help unlock the next evolution of people. Consider, we have successfully performed experimental surgeries to restore vision impairment with digital cameras and restored mobility to those who have lost a limb with a robotic one (where the AI interprets the motions of muscles and tendons).

The future is the augmentation of human skills and knowledge with AI capabilities.

How did you get started in AI?

Really by accident. Back when Business Intelligence adoption started, many of my C-level clients kept telling me they were impressed by the insights computers gave them. I thought, computers are not actually doing that…. but what if they could?

That led down a path of developing a lot of intellectual property, and, eventually a call from IBM R&D to work on a project codenamed “Watson.”

"Consider, we have successfully performed experimental surgeries to restore vision impairment with digital cameras and restored mobility to those who have lost a limb with a robotic one... The future is the augmentation of human skills and knowledge with AI capabilities."

What’s your favorite example of AI in your daily life that most consumers take for granted, or don't even realize is made possible by AI?

It is the AI spam filters. They are truly a godsend. People don’t realize how much garbage and danger they filter out for us.

What excites you most about AI?

The opportunity to be more human is what excites me the most about AI. It sounds counterintuitive, right? However, I’ve found that trying to teach AI about “human things” has fostered a deep exploration on what it means to be human.

Consider the "Loving AI" project where they are trying to tackle the biggest illness in the world: loneliness. To do this, they’re trying to teach AI what unconditional love means. How is that defined? How is it different than “regular love?” What are the different types of love? Loving AI has really become a deep dive into what it means to be human.

What worries you most about AI? How could it go wrong?

I am greatly concerned that AI may discourage human curiosity. Historically, we have always developed new emerging technology (e.g. printing press, the tractor, etc.)

However, people have used their freed-up time to tackle bigger, more complex challenges, perform more value-add work, and develop deeper (business and personal) relationships with each other.

With AI, we live in a time where society has so much entertainment. In conjunction, we’re developing AI solutions that, in theory, could substitute for some of our people relationships. We will reach an inflection point soon where people will continue their advancement before or get sucked into a life of leisure with their AI assistant running errands while people binge watch their favorite shows.

What do you think is the biggest misconception about AI?

The biggest misconception is that this is the realm for only the technologists. We have some very smart technologists, but if you put them in a room together, they’ll think of the things they know, or think are cool. Imagine combining them with marketers who understand the on-the-ground challenges. Imagine the solutions they could create!

The real misconception is that most of us will be passengers in the wave of AI. We all have the chance to be drivers.

What skill or trait do you believe has the greatest chance to remain uniquely human for the foreseeable future?

Creativity and imagination. AI can only do what we teach it—so how do you teach creativity and imagination?

What is a recent advance in AI that blew your mind?

Artificial Empathy. We have AI tools that can dynamically assess a person’s emotional state and respond accordingly. Even more impressive, AI can even assess what’s most important to a person and provide communication coaching to people on what to focus on and even the best words to use that will create maximum resonance.

"The real misconception is that most of us will be passengers in the wave of AI. We all have the chance to be drivers."

 

Marketing + AI

What advice would you give to marketers looking to pilot AI in their organizations?

Take off the blinders. Too many marketers get caught up in what they think AI will not be able to do or do better than a person. This really limits innovation, let alone disruption. The pioneers in AI Marketing thought “green screen” for big ideas, and then worked to see if they were feasible or not.

What is the biggest challenge marketers should plan for as they scale AI?

The biggest challenge is data. There is a lot that can be done with AI, but only if you have the data to train the machine.

What question(s) would you advise marketers ask vendors who claim to have AI-powered technology? 

Ask them how the AI-powered technology will react in a black swan event. If the vendor says it will trigger a quick exception path, then it is not AI. (A real AI system would try millions of things.)

What percentage of marketing tasks will be intelligently automated to some degree in the next five years?

  • 0%
  • 1 – 10%
  • 11 – 25%
  • 26 – 50%
  • 51 – 75%
  • 76 – 99%
  • 100%

Which three marketing categories will experience the greatest disruption from intelligent automation in the next five years?

  • Account-Based Marketing
  • Advertising
  • Analytics
  • Communications
  • Content Marketing
  • Conversational
  • Customer Service
  • Data Management
  • Email Marketing
  • Public Relations
  • Research
  • Sales
  • Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Strategy
  • Other

What’s one marketing job you see AI fully automating and eliminating in the next five years?

Content production for press releases and simple blogs.

What’s one marketing job you see AI creating that doesn't exist today?

Neurolinguistics Marketing, where the power of words will drive custom copy, branding, and spokespeople at an individual level.

What can marketers do to ensure the ethical use of AI in their marketing?

The only effective solution to ensure ethical use is ever constant vigilance.

How can brands achieve personalization without invading privacy?

Honestly, I am not sure people value privacy as much as they claim. We all know we’re giving our data away in exchange for something, like using Instagram for free. We don’t think twice about it unless there’s a problem, like Instagram getting hacked.

How can brands become more human as they intelligently automate tasks and roles?

By focusing on what’s most important: the experience. It’s the kaleidoscope of feelings, belonging, and status representation that will keep the brands human.

"Take off the blinders. Too many marketers get caught up in what they think AI will not be able to do or do better than a person. This really limits innovation let alone disruption."

Rapid Fire

Voice assistant you use the most?

  • Alexa
  • Google Assistant
  • Siri
  • Don’t use voice assistants
  • Other

More valuable in ten years?

  • Liberal arts degree
  • Computer science degree

First publicly traded technology company to reach $2 trillion market cap?

  • Alibaba
  • Alphabet
  • Amazon
  • Apple
  • Facebook
  • Microsoft
  • Tesla
  • Other

Preferred cloud for building AI solutions?

  • Amazon Web Services (AWS)
  • Google Cloud
  • Microsoft Azure
  • Don’t use or prefer any of them
  • Other

Best guess, how long until we achieve artificial general intelligence (AGI)?

  • 1 – 5 years
  • 6 – 10 years
  • 11 – 20 years
  • 21 – 50 years
  • 51+ years
  • Never

Net effect over the next decade?

  • More jobs eliminated by AI
  • More jobs created by AI
  • AI won’t have a meaningful impact on jobs

What does an AI agent win first (or at least share with a human)?

  • Nobel Peace Prize
  • Oscar
  • Pulitzer
  • Won’t win any of the above

Favorite AI movie?

Ex Machina.

Favorite AI book?

My own, which is "Own the A.I. Revolution: Unlock Your Artificial Intelligence Strategy to Disrupt Your Competition."


Get free access to the Ultimate Beginner's Guide to AI in Marketing: https://www.marketingaiinstitute.com/beginners-guide-access

About Paul Roetzer

Paul Roetzer (@paulroetzer) is founder and CEO of PR 20/20, author of The Marketing Performance Blueprint and The Marketing Agency Blueprint, and creator of The Marketing Artificial Intelligence Institute and Marketing Score. Full bio.

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