How to Cut Through the Hype About AI
It's common to see sensational headlines about artificial intelligence, machine learning, or other intelligent technologies.
You know the ones we're talking about...
“AI Beats Human Board Game on Monday, Will Take Over World by Tuesday”
“Why AI Will Solve Every Single Problem Every Business Has Ever Had”
“Tech CEO Says Artificial Intelligence Is the End of Humanity”
We're as excited as anyone about AI's potential to transform business as usual in the marketing industry.
Bu the hype around the technology makes it hard to really understand AI, grasp its business potential, and deploy it in real use cases in the real world.
That's why we put together a quick guide to cutting through the AI hype out there. Keep these tips in mind when reading or watching AI-related content, and you'll have a more realistic — and more useful — understanding of the technology and what it can do.
1. Watch out for how people use the term “artificial intelligence.”
Artificial intelligence is a broad term. It encompasses a lot of different technologies. Some of these technologies are called machine learning, natural language processing (NLP), natural language generation (NLG), deep learning, and neural networks.
Some commentators treat these concepts as interchangeable. They're not. They refer to specific, but related, technologies. The term "artificial intelligence" or "AI" is an umbrella term to describe this suite of tools. Kind of like how the term "analytics" or "business intelligence" encompasses many technologies.
Understanding this helps a lot of people start to wrap their heads around AI. You pull back the curtain and see individual tools with real capabilities, not some singular magic technology that can do everything.
2. Beware of scare tactics.
It’s tempting to write the headline that says AI will take your job. Who wouldn't click on that? But it's harder to offer context into the job transformations that AI will cause and how to handle them.
Many outlets are happy to list only the doom and gloom: AI will destroy jobs across industries. There's a kernel of truth to that. Some industries will see job losses because of AI.
Yet it's not the full story, especially for marketers and salespeople. In truth, AI will automate some marketing and sales tasks. Professionals who don't evolve will find careers in jeopardy. But plenty of others will find their work augmented and enhanced by AI, not to mention entirely new career paths we can’t even envision yet.
That doesn't all fit into a headline. But it's important for marketers to understand the context behind the hype. When you do, you'll be better armed to seize opportunities to work with AI, not against it.
3. Understand that some “AI” companies don’t really use AI.
This one was tough for us to learn starting out. The more we dived into marketing AI solutions, the more we realized some of them didn’t actually use AI, or, at least, they seemed to be stretching quite a bit to fit what they do under the AI umbrella. We were a little confused, too. After all, “AI” or “machine learning” is right there in the product descriptions.
Turns out, some use these terms to describe automation capabilities that aren't really AI-powered technology. But because of the hype cycle, putting AI in the name makes good marketing sense. These companies had useful tools with valid use cases, but no real artificial intelligence powering their solutions.
These claims are problematic for marketers who want to vet and buy solutions. You might buy a solution that says it's AI-powered, but find out later it's not. Or, you might discover there are planned AI features but they aren’t yet built.
There's no easy way to cut through the hype on this one. You'll need to do some homework and ask vendors a lot of questions. But, it is entirely possible to understand AI and related technologies, as well as use them in your marketing and sales activities — even if you're not a programmer or software engineer.
That journey starts with cutting through the hype.