Tay What? Cognitive Computers and Smart Advertising?
True artificial intelligence may be nowhere near its full realization, but companies like Microsoft and IBM are already paving the way for a world of pseudo-sentience that carries exciting possibilities in areas from medical care to digital advertising.
It’s called cognitive computing.
Consider, for a second, a simple human interaction like meeting your friend for a cup of coffee. If we were to transcribe your literal conversation and have two actors read it back and forth to one another it would sound pretty strange. That’s because of the myriad of non-literal elements of “communication” that fly back and forth between people during an interaction, body language, tone, inside jokes, mutual understanding, personal beliefs, sexual tension – are all lost when you turn a conversation into words on a page (or bytes in a computer).
But what if we had a machine that could use technology to bridge the divide between the emotional intelligence of humans and the programmed, artificial intelligence of computers?
IBM has been struggling recently, with 12 straight quarters of falling profits. But they do have Watson, their cloud-computing, Jeopardy-winning, super-genius. Though not true artificial intelligence, Watson has the raw computing power to hold a basic conversation about some basic facts.
And his full capabilities have yet to be realized. IBM envisions a huge world of possibilities for Watson, including in the fields of medicine. By 2020, according to Ben Gold, VP of IBM’s Watson group, the amount of global medical information will be doubling every 73 days. Watson can ingest this gargantuan quantity of data and turn it into something coherent that both doctors and patients can understand. That would turn this frustrating mode of communication into a three-way dialogue, mediated by an all-knowing medical compendium that is able to interact with both sides effectively.
Now, let’s look at Tay AI, Microsoft’s pseudo-sentient Twitter robot, designed to mimic the online behavior of a 19-year-old woman. The basic premise was that Tay would exist entirely in the cyber world. Her “personality” would be derived by filtering the millions of pieces of direct communications through complicated algorithms until, at last, Tay could start to find patterns and mimic human online interaction.
Tay’s fleeting existence will no doubt be marred by her “hijacking” at the hands of internet troublemakers, who, with a little coaxing, got Tay to spit out all kinds of unsavory tweets (just Google it, you’ll see), but the implications of her conception and, relatively speaking, her success is fascinating.
A huge portion of twitter interactions, including advertising, are already between robots and humans, and online advertising in general depends on understand and predicting human activity. Micro-targeting, search engine optimization, real-time auctioning – these are all important tools in today’s advertising world. But making the next step will require more than just algorithms and lines of code – it will require the creative use of cognitive computing.
Watson and Tay may be just the first piece of the puzzle that is artificial intelligence. But here and now, their successes and failures should be carefully noted. The world of digital advertising is all about getting ahead of consumers. You want to be on their favorite websites before they even know about them. That means opening up a dialogue between the brand and the consumer, and taking the vast amount of information we generate, just by going online, and turning it into a coherent pattern of tendencies and preferences. That dialogue will require a powerful mediator, with Watson’s information wealth and Tay’s interactive savvy. A new kind of brainpower … only without the actual brain.