Digital Marketing Suffers from a Significant Challenge Today
As a computer science student many years ago, I learned a bit about artificial intelligence and its applications. At first, I was quite excited by the idea of computers thinking like humans. Then, I quickly realized: computers couldn’t really “think”— at least not the way that a human brain could.
What if—I thought—we gave a computer large amounts of data and compute power. Could it do something that resembled thinking?
I soon learned that it couldn’t—at least not at that time when I was introduced to our largest campus computer, an IBM 1130 that was one of the first somewhat user-friendly mainframe computers built by IBM. This computer came with a whopping 16k of memory and filled the entire room! It needed punch cards to enter data. After lots of late nights at the computer center attempting to get a simple program running, but having to redo it over and over on punch cards (mostly correcting typos and syntax errors), I was convinced that the day when computers could rival human brains was not going to arrive anytime soon.
Fast forward a few decades. The significant evolution of computing power is reaching a tipping point where computers’ speed and capacity might rival—and even exceed— the capacity of human brains.
To put in perspective how rapidly computers have evolved, I am wearing, on my wrist, a computer (a Fitbit fitness tracker) that is the size of a key on the IBM1130, with 1MB of memory and processing power vastly exceeding the capabilities of the IBM mainframe.
Still, the success of machine learning in mimicking human learning has been happening in fits and starts. The iPhone voice recognition feature “Siri” that uses machine learning can make you feel like it is the most amazing invention one day, and make you want to throw your phone across the room in frustration on another day.
Hollywood often seems to see the future before we do. Movies like Short Circuit, I, Robot and many others project scenarios involving “intelligent” computers and robots that either help humans or become so smart as to turn humans into their slaves. The movie Minority Report describes a future where a human brain wired to a computer can predict bad events that are going to occur, as a way to warn and prevent them from happening.
While the various versions of the future portrayed in these movies may or may not be our future, we cannot ignore the reality that, increasingly, computers and robots are steadily becoming an integral part of our lives.
In my recent travel to Australia, I was absolutely amazed by the immigration check at the airport—done entirely by a computer-based facial recognition system. I simply put my passport in a slot, faced a camera and, within a few seconds, the computer matched my face to my passport picture and gates opened. No humans whatsoever! What’s fascinating is the machine’s ability to recognize a face, even one that may be tired, jetlagged, happy, angry, sleepy, shaven, unshaven, unkempt hair, with or without makeup. This was, until recently, something only humans could do. But, there are times when even humans hesitate as we see someone we haven’t seen in years and wonder: “is that really you, Natalie?”
You are probably thinking: okay, great, but what does this have to do with digital marketing. Well, everything.
Digital marketing suffers from a significant challenge today…