We’ve seen Brexit the US presidential election, and the failure of the pollsters (and betting markets) to predict the outcomes. But I want to talk about what might turn out to be an even more seismic and far reaching shift. It will touch almost every field of human endeavour. And yes, that includes the worlds of PR and communications.
For me, the unprecedented progress made in Artificial Intelligence and in particular, Machine Learning, seem to pave the way to a radically different future. In 2016, Google DeepMind learned to play the ancient (and fiendishly complex) game of Go. And it beat (by four games to one) one of the world’s foremost human players.
What is extraordinary about this feat is that the Google team did not expect DeepMind to win (and nor did Lee Sedol – the human Go champion). By Google’s own reckoning, they are a full 10 years ahead of where they thought they would be only a year earlier.
AI has now crept, somewhat imperceptibly, into many aspects of our daily lives. Google searches are becoming faster and more accurate. Facebook uses it to decide what shows up in your newsfeed. Amazon uses it to recommend products. And all three have AI-powered ‘virtual assistants’ which can answer your burning questions.
One of the bestselling products at Christmas in 2016 was the Amazon Echo – a virtual voice-powered assistant deeply rooted in AI. Yours for £50.
What does this all mean for the PR and Comms world? Within a very small number of years I predict that machines (which have been taught by human experts, and countless examples) will be routinely summarising articles for us; will be doing high quality topic and sentiment analysis; will be raising alerts and making recommendations; will be writing high quality reports and analyses without human intervention; will be highly capable and accurate language translators.
The expert members of the Measurement Practice have each written their own take on the impact of 2016 events on communications and research. You can read their thoughts here.