Like most people, when I think of Artificial Intelligence (AI), it normally involves machines or robots wiping out, enslaving or simply surpassing humanity because we have become obsolete. In essence, it would seem that when it comes to AI there is never really a good outcome for humans.
This impression has been fostered by countless sci-fi movies across the years, such as The Terminator and 2001.
Parking the Hollywood perspective for a second, over the last few months AI has become a very interesting topic of debate, with leading entrepreneurs and thinkers such as Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking publicly expressing that AI may signal the end of the human race, whilst others argue we will be set free.
So, why the real-world debate all of a sudden? Firstly, investment and interest in AI startups is accelerating rapidly, and concerns exist that there is no real ethical and legal framework to deal with the potential outcomes of this investment and development.
In the last year alone, we have seen some significant steps forward along the AI continuum from artificial narrow intelligence (ANI, AI that specializes in one area, such as your map app) to artificial general or super intelligence (AI as smart or smarter than a human across the board).
For example in 2014, an AI supposedly passed the so-called Turing test (although not according to all observers). During a five-minute text-based conversation, an AI convinced over 30 per cent of humans it communicated with that they were talking to another human. This was widely viewed as a landmark achievement in AI learning and awareness. More recently, the Google-acquired machine learning DeepMind startup revealed an algorithm that learnt all by itself, with no human guidance, to successfully play a video game.
The second reason for this debate is that ANIs are already a large part of our everyday lives. As the algorithms at the core of ANIs become smarter and more connected to each other, what will that mean?
From the computer in your car that decides when to use the antilock brakes to the app on your phone that recommends music you would like, right through to you wondering why Amazon, Facebook or Google seems so intuitive about the products or information you would like to see, these are all ANIs.
Gartner predicts that by the end of 2015 the world will have over 5 billion connected 'things' (in addition to all our computers and phones). These will all automatically share personal data, with deep-learning algorithms (sets of algorithms attempting to model high-level abstractions out of data) potentially trying to use this data (and other sources) to predict behaviour, preferences and so on.
So for the communication industry this represents a period of transformation and opportunity. The importance of how to capture, synthesize, analyze and drive insights from data needs to be a vital part of our everyday process. This will mean reshaping our talent, our understanding and application of technology, how we plan and buy media, as well as the creative development process.
Real-time buying will eventually become real-time communications along the whole consumer journey, not just confined to performance media. Brands' consumer market research will be unpinned by actual behavioural and attitudinal data, gathered from a multitude of sources, and ultimately the intuitive human decision process will be supported or replaced by a more efficient (and hopefully less malevolent) version of H.A.L.
We are still a long way off from SkyNet deciding it knows us better than ourselves and releasing the Terminators on the human race, although Samsung's SGR-1 armed sentry robots, which can automatically detect the enemy and technically fire of their own accord, do sound somewhat scary.
Kristian Barnes is CEO of Vizeum APAC