Artificial Intelligence: Implications On Marketing, Analytics, And You

CreationA rare post today. It looks a little further out into the future than I normally tend to. It attempts to simplify a topic that has more than it’s share of coolness, confusion and complexity.

While the phrase Artificial Intelligence has been around since the first human wondered if she could go further if she had access to entities with inorganic intelligence, it truly jumped the shark shifted into high gear in 2016. Primarily because we got our first real everyday access to products and services that used some form of AI to delight us. No more theory, we felt it!

I’m going to take a very long walk with you today. This topic has consumed a lot of my thinking over the last year (you’ll see the exact start date below). It’s implications are far and wide, even in the narrow scope that I live in (marketing, analytics, influence). I have so much to tell you, stuff I’m scared about, and so much I’m excited about.

Here are the elements I’ll cover:

Through it all, my goal is to make the topic accessible, get you to understand some of the key terms, their implication on our work, our jobs, and in a bonus implications on the future we are responsible for (your kids and mine).

Let’s go!

AI | Now | Local Maxima.

AI also seems so out there, so hard to grasp. Let me fix that for you.

Here’s a really simple example, easily accessible. Google Photos.

Humans took 2.5 trillion pictures in 2016. As you are trying to find that one special picture, it feels like all 2.5 trillion are on your phone! A real problem for all of us. Google Photos uses AI to solve this problem.

For example, I want pictures of Sushi… I simply type in Sushi… Boom!

google_photos_sushi

Clearly I’m not your classic I love my food so much I must Instagram every meal person. :)

Notice nothing is categorized or tagged in the pictures above. Google Photos has to be able to recognize the content all on it’s own.

It is actually smarter than what you see above. When I type in the name of my son and Sushi, I get just one photo back! If I type in his name and the word beach, I get pictures of him on a beach… throughout his entire life! Photos can keep track of him from baby to today.

Cool, right? AI.

On your phone, try to search for people in your lives by name, by faces, combine their name with events/things/locations and you’ll be surprised at what the AI returns.

One more.

In trying to see how smart Google Photos really is, I wanted to try something harder… I typed in the query pain (French for bread)… and I got this…

google_photos_breads

This really delighted me.

On top is a Hong Kong Pineapple Bun, in the middle is an Indian Chapatti, and at the bottom is my wife’s Italian focaccia bread infused with our home grow rosemary. All, breads.

Think of how insanely cool it is that Google Photos can translate pain into bread and find all different kinds of breads that our family enjoys. From tens of thousands of photos in my album. Instantly.

(We’ll touch on this topic later but…) These are moments when I really worry that my job will soon become irrelevant. I mean, just imagine how hard it is to do what you see above, and everything I do is actually so much easier!

AI | Now | Global Maxima.

On that topic… My first true moment of worry about my professional future came in March 2016 when AlphaGo beat Lee Sedol, the unassailable Go grandmaster. It was believed, due to the immense complexity of the game of Go, that computers were at least a decade away from beating humans. The potential legal board positions in Go are greater than the number of atoms in the universe. AlphaGo not only had to compute all the possible positions to play, but to pick the best one it also had to have some kind of intuition and strategic thinking – a challenge beyond raw compute power.

The specific scary moment was on 11th of March. The kids and I were watching the livestream of game two from Seoul on our TV. During the game AlphaGo made its now famous Move  37. We were so confused. The expert commentators on TV thought it was a mistake. It is worth watching the minute of so of the video on YouTube.

alphago_move_37

It’s the black piece being moved next to the white one almost exactly in the middle of the board, to your right.

The game continued for another three hours, but it was over at move 37. Only AlphaGo knew that, it took a while for humans to come to that realization. It was, in the letter and spirit of the word, inconceivable by humans.

See, why it freaked me out that I might not have a career? Why do we need all these white collared jobs populated by people who will always be slower, more inefficient, and vastly less smart? Even a narrowly specialized AI entity in the short-term can replace their value in a professional environment. As we make progress towards Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), that entity will do 50 more than in addition to your one thing.

It is important that I share that being scared or freaked out can co-exist with excitement. You know the quote about the importance of being able to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time.

I am excited about AI, and perhaps beyond excited about AGI as it promises the scaled application of intelligence that will truly change the world in ways we can’t even begin to imagine. Consider Move 37. Maybe there is a Move 37 to solve Global Warming, and we simply can’t conceive of it. Maybe there is a Move 37 for fusion. Or perpetual motion. Or… Love. And, there has to be a Move 37 for politics. Consider how incredible it will be that we’ll have AGI around to solve these impossible problems.

I am also excited because I believe that, at least as far out as I can see, the human brain and the human heart will be valued – we will identify new things to value, it just won’t be Digital Marketing Evangelist. Perhaps you now see why I’ve pivoted my career to Storytelling with data over the last couple of years. :)

I realize there are people throwing up red flags, warning us. They are smarter and vastly more knowledgeable on this subject than I could ever hope to be. We should listen to them carefully. I’ve watched at least 30 hours of lectures on YouTube on this topic.

My personal reaction to AI emanates from three things:

1. There really is no turning back. Humans push forward.

2. It is impossible to imagine what 2057 will look like. Our current red flags are sourced from what human means today, what works means today, what our relationship with technology means today. None of this might be relevant by then (even less relevant by 2100).

3. Between 2057 and now, I humbly believe that AI will function to extend our own intelligence, fill our gaps, and will find solutions inconceivable to humans to intractable problems (see above)

My personal strategy: Understand reality. Invest in continuous learning. Adapt. Add new/different value. Rinse and repeat. 

The most conservative estimate is that AI driven changes are expected to replace 25% of jobs across the world, by 2026. My goal: Stay ahead by solving new challenges.

If you’ve thought about it, please share yours in comments below.

Now that we have the basics out of the way, let’s really understand what this thing is.

What the heck is Artificial Intelligence?

People tend to use these phrases almost interchangeably: Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and Deep Learning.

It does not help that there is genuine ambiguity about each of them as we are still in the early evolutionary stages.

Let me share a simple definition that helps me understand each phrase.

AI is an intelligent machine.

ML is the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed. Currently, ML is the most exciting application of AI.

Deep Learning is a specific ML technique.

Most Deep Learning methods involve artificial neural networks, modeling how our brain works. At the moment Deep Learning forms the basis for most of the incredible advances in Machine Learning (and in turn AI).

A pinch more about Deep Learning as it plays such a critical role in all the current AI excitement.

There are some who believe that anything modeled on the human brain, like Deep Learning, will be limited in it’s intelligence, that it will inherit the limits and flaws that our intelligence possesses. This will then cap what an AI might be capable of. An additional problem to worry about with Deep Learning is that we might not have massive training datasets for every problem we want to solve (mandatory for Deep Learning).

Hence, while Deep Learning is rightly getting lots of focus and affection at the moment, I’m excited that some outliers, :), are investigating other techniques. One of my favorite alternatives is Counterfactual Regret Minimization.

In summary: Deep Learning is a specific Machine Learning technique which currently powers the most exciting applications of Artificial Intelligence.

Now you know how to use each phrase correctly. :)

Machine Learning | Marketing.

I use the phrase AI sparingly, preferring Machine Learning instead since it is the primary technique that is powering the changes you see in our context.

You are seeing many applications of Machine Learning being applied to Marketing. Here’s a collection of ideas to push your thinking.

The one that I’m most excited about (because we suck so much at it) is the ability to personalize content delivered via our ads. Right message for the right person.

I am also impressed with the advances ML is powering in smart bidding (particularly in AdWords). You set your desired outcomes (target CPA, ROAS, enhanced CPC) and let intelligence help you get to your goals – sans human micro fidgeting! Right message for the right person at the right time.

Broadly speaking it is important to internalize that humans are going to get out of the campaign business (campaign management, content, offers, manual spreadsheet massaging, handful of keywords/pages/whatever focus, etc.).

Here’s one illustrative example. Most manual touch (even with a tool) search campaigns take into account three or four signals. Keyword. Time of Day. Location. Something else. Even the most “automated” approaches from your advanced agency will use a handful more. Yet, an entity like Google or Facebook has hundreds (not a metaphor) of signals it can use to deliver the right ad. There is no way any manual approach can solve for this. Machine Learning to the rescue.

Oh, and you can deliver the right message in a billion queries world (check the size of your current search campaigns for a contrast).

Let me bring some of this home by sharing an actual example from last year.

A large hotel chain wanted to solve this problem: 90k travelers are stranded every day in America across 5,145 airports. How can the hotel ensure that they show up at the right moment for all these people? The solution was to leverage real-time signals like bad weather, flight delays at 5,145 airports, and other such data, combine that with ML powered algorithms to automate ads and messaging in the proximity of local airports. All sans human-control. Result? 60% increase in bookings in targeted areas. ML + Automation = Profit.

Oh, and of course if your company’s data is not limited (and you have solved identity, please, please solve identity) you can leverage ML to do the above campaign across Search, Display and Video. AND (are you sitting down?) rather than guessing how much credit to give each marketing strategy from hundreds of thousands of customer touch points, ML powered attribution can magically analyze every individual’s journey and automatically recommend shifts to your media budget! O. M. G.

This is not some future fantasy. This is last year. Using Machine Learning.

Does it give you a sense for how far behind your company might already be?

Consider the implications of ML on your email marketing program. The dataset you have contains every piece of data about all the people on your mailing list, all the content that has ever gone out, every click they have every interacted with, every product you have, every product’s lifecycle, purchase cycle, attach rates, every outbound click, unsubscribing rates (and on and on) across all of your company history. Can you create the perfect email campaign for every person to maximize their happiness and your profit, always?

With ML, you can imagine that this is just a mid-sized difficult problem to solve.

I’m unaware of any ESP at the moment who is doing this (that does not mean it is not happening). What I’m confident of is that it is coming. So, if you are in the email business as a vendor, as an agency, or as a company…. You should be planning to live in that world now. You should be pushing your people, your agency, your vendor into that world. Now.

One key thing that stymied my efforts, and likely your ML efforts, in 2016 was Identity. Solving Identify will allow us to join isolated pools of data, give them a stronger purpose. While we all work to do that (and it really is your problem to solve primarily and not a vendor’s), it is important to realize that each marketing channel has gotten so much more advanced in being able to identify a singular human on it’s own platform. Yes, a silo but so much better than 2015.

What is great about this is that you can take one important pool where you’ve solved Identity already, your customer data, and all the signals you get from customer scoring, propensity modeling, past purchase behavior, lifetime value and other orgasmic goodness you already have, and combine it with the Identity signals from your marketing platforms to solve some very tough problems you have today.

Your kilobytes of golden signals merged with the gigabytes of customer and intent signals in their terabytes of data. You throw in some Machine Learnings into that and it truly is magic.

Another example from last year.

For a consumer electronics company, rather than engaging with everyone and slathering them all with a spray and pray generic message… The strategy deployed was to classify the existing customers, take into account their predicted value to the company, their past behavior, current expressed intent-signals, the predicted value to the company from that signal, and context the human is in. All this data, across tens of millions of identified signals to deliver a deeply unique message to humans that mattered the most – at scale. A 30 point increase in conversion rate. Thirty points.

And, this is not unusual. I’m thinking of one more example I’ll share with you in the future about an insurance company and being able to combine audience signals with machine learning to deliver a 58% increase in conversions of people who had the same attributes as their top 10% most profitable customers. Insane, right?

All the examples above, all the stories above, are not future looking. They are all real things you can do today, and results we delivered last year. That is how far along marketing already is in its ML journey. I cannot even begin to tell you how pumped I am about the changes coming this year.

All of the above is still at least to a degree human assisted. I expect, looking forward, that the human assisted part will peel off. Sooner rather than later. It is important that you consider this as you plan your career over the next three years. If you want to know what I’m doing, search for the phrase “my personal strategy” above.

For a little bit, I expect that some humans will still be required to fill data gaps (Identity!), humans will still be required for imagining brand copy or coming up with centerfold creatives. But anything that is done often in a repeatable manner is already headed to be sans human.

I really cannot stress this enough… If your marketing’s foundation is to keep adding more hamsters to run on wheels to achieve scale, you are doomed. Even if you find enough hamsters, it is critical to realize the game has changed.

While it is a little sad that our primary job as Marketers won’t be to press the relevant buttons and twist the relevant knobs on the machine, I am happy that in the end the winner is the human at the other end of our marketing. More relevant messages (if not perfectly relevant), at precisely the right time (and perhaps delivered just once!), to the human in the most meaningful moments.

Win-Win-Win.

Yes. I do have a sense for how disruptive the implication of all this change is for me, for you and for our co-workers at a deeply personal level.

Machine Learning | Analytics.

This story is much more straightforward. More and more humans are going to be transitioned out of the business of analytics. There won’t be any need for them. The pace will accelerate over the next handful of years.

We are needed today because data collection is hard. So, we have an army of implementers.

Most humans employed by companies were unable to access data – not intelligent enough or trained enough or simply time pressures. So, we have an army of glorified data regurgitators. I kid. I mean Analysts. They send out reports and dashboards. They are in the business of answering known knowns.

Some companies, some of the times truly want strategic questions answered, and they hire a small platoon of Analysis Ninjas. Most of the times they are in the valuable business of answering the known unknowns, they aim to get to the priceless unknown unknowns.

[Sidebar: If you don’t know these three phrases, please watch my short talk: A Big Data Imperative: Driving Big Action.]

Insane as it seems like, data collection should get sorted out in the next few years. As close to perfect data, with little to no instrumentation, because it will all already be built in.

The current crop of Analytics tools are getting better and better at the known knowns, the process of disintermediation of the humans doing that work is only going to accelerate… And then that work will disappear. If you are solving for the known knowns, and ML can do that a million times better than you AND can take the necessary action, why are you or I needed in the data puking business?

If you are a report writer in your company most of the time, ponder the above thought. Here’s the great news: Time to move up the food chain or move to a different chain. Hurray!

The Known Unknowns are going to be a source of job security for the next two or three years (perhaps less on the Marketing side). As ML creates new possibilities whenever people give you a finite, repeatable question, for which they don’t have an answer, ML will ask: Why do you need the answer? Why don’t I just go take the action for you?

Ok, it literally won’t say that, but for predictable questions there are predictable actions to be taken. Why can’t we automate them and infuse them with intelligence?

The barrier to this is that your Analytics vendor is in a silo, your campaign vendor in their own, your CMS in it’s own, your mobile anything in it’s own. None of them caring to extend and collaborate. Still, a solvable problem. And, if you read my marketing stories above carefully, this is already solved in those examples. So, there is a blueprint.

If you are in the business of answering unknown unknowns, you have job security for another five years or so. This is simply because analytics vendors are still not taking the ML revolution seriously. Not at Adobe, not at Google, not at SAP, not at IBM. There are small efforts. Click on link called Assistant in the left nav of the Google Analytics app, or click on the link in Analytics that says Data Driven Attribution. They should you hints, even as they leave the action entirely on the human. I think we need our version of the Manhattan project. Hopefully analytics vendors will pivot in a big way – why solve the pressing, surely going to go away in two years, problems of today?

Here’s the higher-order-bit…. Anthony Goldbloom phrased this beautifully: Machines will excel at frequent high-volume tasks, humans can tackle novel situations.

In Analytics and Optimization, almost everything we do today would fit in the category of frequent high-volume tasks. It puts pressure on the longevity of our jobs. Until complete disruption arrives, try to migrate your job’s focus on the unknown unknowns – that is still a novel situation.

Analytics was a means to making smarter decisions. I am glad analytics as we know it will go away. It will be automated, scaled, faster, more delightful and deliver higher impact.

Over the last few years you’ve seen a huge infusion on this blog of business strategy, of influencing shifts in direction, of trying to fill gaps in people’s thinking where no data exists, of being able to function in ambiguity. All of these, until we get truly Artificial General Intelligence (AGI), will still continue to be a source of gainful employment. Hence, that’s the Analyst of the near-future in my humble view.

Artificial Intelligence | Future | Kids.

I don’t normally talk about this, but in context of this discussion I wanted to be a bit more open.

All this time I’ve spent on AI, on the acceleration of change, on the massive disruption that’s coming, it got me thinking about my kids and the world I have to get them ready for.

Two thoughts to share with you, to spark your imagination in case you have kids or you play an influential role in a child’s life.

The Strategic.

Our kids are young, hence almost nothing they are learning in school or they’ll learn at University will really get them ready to live in the world they’ll graduate into. And. What scares me is that I can’t even predict what that world will be like. What will work actually mean? I don’t like being helpless, and hence I gave some thought to what key skills / attributes could I possibly want them to have that will help them to be ready to tackle what might be coming.

We choose three that might serve them well:

1. Emotional resilience. (A handful of things in there. A strong emotional core, in the face of challenging situations – love, work, insane people etc. The ability to be happy – I'm paranoid about this one.)

2. Recognize, and exploit change. (Hardest thing for a human to do, we like status quo. I'm thinking of how to give them a portfolio of skills, rather than just be happy they are an engineer or a teacher or a plumber.)

3. Discipline. (Be laser focused, ability to get things done, ignore distractions – not the same as focus -, a certain amount of ruthlessness in getting to a pre-determined valuable end.)

There are more of course. One that came close was the ability to always know one’s unique strengths. These three felt right to us.

I invite your suggestions via comments below.

The Tactical.

My son has a propensity towards computer science. Even at his young age he programs in Java, he has learned Perl, JavaScript, and other web technologies. He is working on his second Android app. While all that, and his Sunday tutoring at Stanford, is helping stretch his brain, training him to think in clever ways, he will start his professional life, less than a decade away, with no jobs where those skills are going to be required.

Because he is headed into this specific direction, we are pivoting our strategy for him. We are going to prepare him for the world that will be well here, by the time he is in his chosen field of interest. The team at Facebook had a very nice article that collected their guidance. It is going to help inform my son's strategy.

Here’s the relevant excerpt from their blog post:

How do we prepare for jobs that don’t yet exist?

If you’re a student:

+ Math and physics classes are where one learns the basic methods for AI, machine learning, data science, and many of the jobs of the future. Take all the math class you can possibly take, including Calc I, Calc II, Calc III, Linear Algebra, Probability, and Statistics. Computer science, too, is essential; you’ll need to learn how to program. Engineering, economics, and neuroscience are also helpful. You may also want to consider some areas of philosophy, such as epistemology, which is the study of what is knowledge, what is a scientific theory, and what does it mean to learn.

+ The goal in these classes is not simple rote memorization. Students must learn how to turn data into knowledge. This includes basic statistics, but also how to collect and analyze data, be aware of possible biases, and to be alert to techniques to prevent self-delusion through biased data manipulation.

+ Find a professor in your school who can help you make your ideas concrete. If their time is limited, you can also look toward senior PhD students or postdocs to work with.

+ Apply to PhD programs. Forget about the “ranking” of the school for now. Find a reputable professor who works on topics that you are interested in, or pick a person whose papers you like or admire. Apply to several PhD programs in the schools of these professors and mention in your letter that you’d like to work with that professor, but would be open to work with others.

+ Engage with an AI-related problem you are passionate about. Start reading the literature on the problem and try to think about it differently than what was done before. Before you graduate, try to write a paper about your research or release a piece of open source code.

+ Apply for industry-focused internships to get hands-on experience on how AI works in practice.

Summary: Loads of Advanced Math, Engineering, Neuroscience with a pinch of philosophy, and loads of analytical thinking.

If you have a child in your life who is headed in the "IT" / "Computers" (or honestly any job that will come in five years), please consider this valuable guidance.

Update: I'm a big fan of Prof. Max Tegmark. Here's a wonderful article by him on kids and careers: Career Advice for the Future.

Artificial Intelligence | Worry about Humanity.

I can’t cover AI without at least touching on this thought:

AI is going to wipe out humanity. To a super intelligence that is in control of the planet, we will appear to be the equivalent of how ants appear to us – mostly pests who get in the way, even as we express passing appreciation for their “primitive intelligence.”

It is important to understand two incredibly valuable definitions that I’ve paraphrased from the brilliant Yuval Noah Harari.

Intelligence is the ability to solve problems.

Consciousness is  the ability to feel things.

People who express the thought above mix the two things.

Absolutely no one can predict the future a hundred years out (I encourage you NOT to Google Mr. Harari’s prediction about what he sees happening 300 years out). But, everything we know at the moment, everything we can see peeking into the future to the best abilities of our best thinkers, indicates that we are solving for Intelligence, there is no current path to Consciousness.

It does not mean we will keep control of the Super Intelligence or that we or a Super Intelligence won’t want to solve for Consciousness (honestly, why would it?).

It is important to understand the difference, if only to be able to see through the hysteria and think cogently.

Speaking of thinking cogently, if you want to have a broader imagination related to AI’s potential to be valuable and disruptive to the current order, here are a clutch of articles…

NTT Resonant, a Japanese tech company, has trained an AI to give love advice to troubled hearts. This is not a lame chatbot with very short answers. Oshi-el can take in complicated pages long questions, which often family and other context, and responds with answers. Not perfect, but so incredible even today.

Health is a space that is seeing some exciting progress. 415 million (!) people are at risk worldwide and you need a medical specialists to detect it – specialists who are not available in many parts of the world. Google’s algorithm, leveraging ML and Computer Vision, is already on-par with Ophthalmologists in being able to detect Diabetic Eye Disease. There is more work to be done, but how cool that so many lives can be saved. And, this is one of so many health related efforts leveraging ML.

Augmentation is perhaps the most optimal way to think about the near-term future. The world will find some use for what we are good at, and we’ll use AI for what it is good at. Maurice Conti presents a cluster of ideas that are in the play today that demonstrate the incredible inventions of intuitive AI. Mind-blowing what is already possible.

It is not clear what the future beyond the next 50 years will bring. I hope the articles above give you clues.

Please be curious about AI and its implications on your job today, and on the generation you are helping prepare for the future. Now's the time to pivot.

As always, it is your turn now.

Are you leveraging Machine Learning in your job or as a personal curiosity? If you’ve already downloaded TensorFlow, what are you doing with it? Is a piece of your marketing strategy leveraging ML powered options Facebook or Google are making available to you? If you had to give advice to an Analyst to get ready for an AI-first world, what would it be? Have you thought of the implications of all this change on your children? Any tips for me and my kids?

Thank you.

Comments

  1. 1
    Pedro Meneses says:

    Very interesting reflection on the implications of AI in our present and future!

    I do worry about which jobs my two young daughters will find when they graduate. Besides computer science and related areas, I would say the job market will be all about entertainment, arts, sports, and taking care of other humans (a human nurse is still better than a robot nurse) :)

    Being able and willing to learn through our entire life is definitely a must in this century.

    • 2

      Pedro: You are right, for now "novel situations" will still require humans.

      This is a bit off-topic from the perspective of this post, but I'm not sure your human nurse example will pain out. Think bigger.

      Will we need doctors and nurses if nanobots are constantly present in our bloodstream fixing anything that they detect will be detrimental to our health and well-being? Cancer, gone. Broken bones, fixed.

      We are not there yet. But, checkout some of the stuff Verily is working on. Others are doing even cooler stuff, so I would say by 2030. :)

      Avinash.

      • 3
        Pedro Meneses says:

        I didn't know about the Verily projects. Really impressive!

        I hope it translates into better access to healthcare worldwide.

        Thanks

        Pedro

  2. 4
    Bhola Prasad says:

    Very amazing article Avinash. Love it too much. Lots of great information about AI and our future. I am glad that I started learning statistics and probability from khan academy and looking forward to learn some JavaScript from khan academy also before diving into more complex courses on edx.org on statistics and now AI also. I totally agree with you that math and physics is base of everything and every individual person should have a better understanding of it. I really feel ashamed that I am an engineer but my maths isn't so good but eventually I started working on it.

    Avinash you talked about two companies in this post, can you tell the name of them if it it's not a problem related to some privacy. It will be good to Interact with their website to learn something about their marketing.

    And if somehow you don't know about http://www.khanacademy.org , please give it a try. It's an amazing website for kids and as well as for grown ups to learn about math and science and many other things. I think your kids will find it very helpful, as sal khan is such an amazing teacher.

    Hope you and your family have great health. Thanks.

    • 5

      Bhola: Sadly I can't name the companies, a precondition in me being able to share their data.

      Khan Academy is absolutely wonderful. They also have an experimental school here, I'm excited to see how successful it will be.

      While we are on the topic, let me plug the AI nanodegree at Udacity. Anyone with some software programming skills can actually take the course and have new career opportunities open up.

      Avinash.

  3. 7

    Hi Avinash,

    I'm not offering solutions or predictions, but do want to share some things that may seem off topic or even disparate unrelated strands, but actually are not.

    First, and perhaps most-related to your post, is that work/career needs to be divorced forever from money/compensation. Amitabh dreamt of a star trek computer, but what's needed more than that is the star trek society in which that computer exists. College aged highly intellectual CS geeks like L&S figured (naively, as twenty-somethings do who lack maturity and extensive life experience) that making all info/knowledge available to all people everywhere would be for the benefit of humanity missed or ignored the facts of human nature (some of which include strong tendencies – to put it mildly – toward tribalism and superstition, short-sightedness, and unwarranted arrogance & egoism) and necessary historical context. Information does not equal wisdom. In comical irony, I must type this as fast as I can as I'm actually supposed to be serving my employer and clients right now, not discussing important issues facing humanity. All economies are inventions, they don't exist in nature, and as is true of many things in this world, things created to serve often end up enslaving.

    Robert "and now I have become death the destroyer of worlds" Oppenheimer and his ilk might have been better off asking "is this appropriate" rather than "is this possible". (Let's ask Kim Jong Un for his opinion on the matter.) Physicists will never achieve their objective of finding the ultimate building block of the universe because it's not an assemblage of parts, they're stuck in a mechanistic view, fatally flawed from the start. The deeper they peer, the more they sound like Taoists.

    Humans are highly adaptable, yet we indeed are also able to create that to which we should not be adapting; how is it possibly okay that we are creating waste materials that will for many thousands of years emit deadly radioactivity? There are ancient ruins that baffle us today, no civilization lasts 'forever', those radioactive wastes may be encountered by organisms of some sort in thousands of years who will not have any memory of us, and will likely be unable to understand the warning signs we thoughtfully create for just such an occasion.

    But getting back to the point at hand and stepping away from larger contexts; as jobs are increasingly displaced by AI, some liken it to buggy whip businesses being a small casualty as a much larger economy arose for automobiles, parts, highways, hotels, gas stations, repair persons, etc. – but folks far smarter than I have pointed out that the jobs AI takes away are not creating new, larger economies. We don't need a star trek computer, we need a star trek society. It's time to divorce work from money.

    And now I must get back to "work".

    • 8

      David: I'm grateful you took the time to share the "higher-order-bits", very insightful.

      To your second to last para… The futurists I've come to have some faith in believe that the scenario you describe is just 300 years out, not thousands. Or at least that in that time horizon, if you and I were still around, we would not recognize what a human is then compared to what we think a human is today.

      Brilliant last para… It is something I worry about a lot. A lot.

      Avinash.

  4. 9
    Anna Watson says:

    What a thoughtful analysis of where we are and what is to come. Thank you Avinash!

    I agree with your point on Facebook that we are overestimating the change in the next couple years and underestimating the change in the next couple decades. This forces me to think about the choices I am making currently in myself. I am worrying about the next job promotion when I should worry about four promotions from hence.

    Though I am an analyst I am a complete Luddite when it comes to AI. That changes today. Thanks for the much needed kick on the butt.

  5. 10

    Wow – what a read Avinash.

    It's really inspiring to see you so openly planning out your own 1, 2, 5+ years out.

    I agree with your POV of looking forward to the benefits these advancements will provide to us as consumers vs the easy alternative of hiding your head under the pillow..

  6. 11
    Jessica says:

    It would be great to have more math and science integrated into the non-STEM fields. I was a liberal arts major and struggled in my math classes. Had you told me my future depended on mastering calculus, I would've despaired. And yet I've fallen in love with technology and data analysis over the course of my marketing career. I hope educators can convincingly show students you don't have to be a STEM professional to understand and love STEM concepts.

    Your article made me think of the manufacturing industry in America. People underestimated how quickly automation was going to replace workers, and overestimated how easily those workers could transition to other jobs. Do you know if anyone is writing about this phenomenon in the business world? (More specifically, from a "let's learn our lesson and here's how we can do things differently" perspective.)

    I'm so glad you wrote this. It's certainly a wake-up call.

    • 12

      Jessica: Hear, hear on not getting hung up on having to be "STEM Professionals." I've hired folks that you describe into my team at Google.

      I've not been impressed with a business book on the topic you mention. But, I think the book you are looking for is Homo Deus by Yuval Harari.

      Avinash.

  7. 13

    First, thank you for this post. I was having something like an anxiety attack at work recently and then embarrassed myself a bit in the office when trying to frenetically articulately string together some thoughts on how our work as data analysts was over and that our team needed to be using Google Cloud ML and IBM Bluemix and Tensorflow and learn to "train" the machine… and it was a mess. Thank you for openingly sharing your journey. I can now send this post to the team at the office and say, "See! I'm not (uniquely) crazy!"

    Perhaps the one piece of human experience that is unique from AI that we can do much better at teaching to children is imagination. To use and enjoy imagination – imagination to envision possible futures that the AI and ML can help design the way to achieve.

    In terms of personal strategy, I fight with the tension all the time between tending to the day-to-day (i.e. feeding the family) and investing in learning new skills. Of the long list of things I wish I would have learned in school… which should I start learning now?

    Lastly, as I sit and write this from Costa Rica where I have been working these past couple decades, my concern is about the human cost of the transition to our future augmented careers and industries. If it is anxiety-producing for Avinash in Silicon Valley to be worried about job security, what does this look like for "developing / emerging" regions? Does every country try to win a place in the "knowledge economy" by sending their kids to learn coding and statistics or are there parallel paths to the future. I don't know…. There is a talk this coming week here about AI, the singularity, etc. with someone from Google and IBM Watson. What should we here be asking them? Are we just a future market for new tech or will we have a role to play?

    • 14

      Paul: It is nice to meet another uniquely crazy person! ;)

      You are so right about imagination and kids. It is an imperative.

      Re your tension… For a couple decades now, I have spent atleast four hours a week learning something new. I don't mean coding, I mean exposing myself to new ideas, practicing new things, sharpening my execution, so on and so forth. And, I have to make that time during nights after the kids are asleep and away from hours dedicated to my three jobs. It is hard. But, I don't see a choice.

      On your last point, it is a little off-topic and I'm not an expert. My humble view is that unlike the other points of inflection during human history (industrial revolution for ex) where change meant the displaced had something else they could do (perhaps at a lower income), this time work is simply disappearing – there will be nothing new to do for a vast number of humans. It will actually hurt the developing and underdeveloped nations the most. To say it is heartbreaking is a massive understatement. It will be very, very, disruptive, and perhaps can only be solved if governments action their plans to address this now.

      Also see the last para in David's comment above.

      Avinash.

      • 15

        Four hours a week – I love that structure! I struggle with making time when I have no goal to shoot for. How do you prioritize what to learn?

        • 16

          Earl: I wish I had something brilliant to say. It is two obvious things:

          1. You reduce your life down to the absolute essential. (Ex: TV out. Family In. Transient "friendships" out. Few deep friendships in. Etc.)

          2. Ruthless prioritization. Mastering saying no.

          Avinash.

  8. 17

    Sorry for off topic.

    I am curious about AI and more and more often see articles about what jobs can not be replaced by machines (at least in the nearest future). One of them was mentioning art and entertainment, meaning machines can't replace live rock bands, ballet dancers etc. And that having machines doing all our hard work, we will have much more time and demand for entertainment.

    But reading your post just now I realized that quite possible that someone somewhere is already working on applying ML to songwriting for example. There's an ocean of available tracks, samples etc as well as lots of data regarding what songs are/were popular.

    So it's actually possible to create a machine that would create music hits and a robot who would perform them in the most perfect way right now… But does it actually mean that we will love these perfect hits just as much as we love our imperfect but human-made music now? Perhaps there will be a new range of luxury "human-made" products and services that people will value more vs machine-made, like we value organic and hand made stuff…

    • 18

      Helen: For the near future, I do agree with Mr. Goldbloom that "novel situations" will still be ones were humans are valued.

      I have to share that Music is most likely not going to be it! There are lots of existing efforts where AI is producing music. It is not as cool and hip and amazing as "human music" at the moment. But, remember AI makes progress along exponential curves.

      If you want to see, one great example is Project Magenta, a project by Google Brain. It created an AI that produced its first piece of music just six months ago – a piano piece.

      If you want to play (!), check out A.I. Duet. You can actually play the piano and the AI responds to you and plays a duet along with you! It is very cool.

      Again, not ready for primetime to threaten Tay Tay. But, only a matter of time.

      Avinash.

      • 19

        Thanks a lot for sharing the links. It's really fascinating!

        Although do you think we will purely move to machine_сreated_everything because it will be cheaper, more efficient and perhaps better quality.

        Or there is a chance that some human-produced arts, and maybe even goods and services will survive, moving to a luxury category that is not mass market yet very valuable. What about creativity?

        All the recent researches (at least in the U.K.) definitely say that the majority of successful and long lasting impactful advertising campaigns are based on a strong creative idea.

        Do you think AI will be able to deliver this as well? Or make it redundant for advertising industry?

        To mimic someone's style and to reorganize the available data is one thing, another thing is to see what's beyond the available information.

        I assume that's what you call novel situations?

        • 20

          Helen: You are absolutely right, those would fit the definition of novel situations and for now humans are still needed to solve for them. Hurray for us!

          If you switch the time horizon longer, the purpose of art, music etc. (to give us pleasure?) will have new solutions. Then, will we still need art, music as we think of those two today? That's what I think about to stretch my brain.

          Avinash.

    • 21

      Hi Helen,

      It already has been done to some extend. At least I know of AI mimicking Bach.

      http://www.theverge.com/2016/12/23/14069382/ai-music-creativity-bach-deepbach-csl

      • 22

        Thanks for sharing. That's really cool!

        I think for machine to mimic something is fairly easy. To create something totally unique yet something that will be liked and appreciated by real people – that's much harder.

        I'm wondering how fast we are gonna get there, and how.

    • 23

      See also The Magic iPod where a machine does a mix between two songs:

      https://themagicipod.com/

      And some thoughts on it here: http://www.eugenewei.com/blog/2017/2/25/magic-ipod

  9. 25
    Elliott Bavarian says:

    Avinash!

    The opportunity to leverage ML to surpass human manual efforts is, in my view, mainly open to larg companies with big pockets and enough data. Where will the small companies, or rather the agencies that help the small companies, fit in? How will they tap into it? Or will they at all? Who does what? etc.

    What is your take? Love to hear your opinion!

    And BIG UP for all your shared knowledge and best practice through this blog! Thank you!

    BR /Elliott

    • 26

      Elliott: You point out an extremely important element.

      Today, Deep Learning does require massive datasets to train the algorithms. We don't know how they are learning often, but we do know lots of data solves for learning. Those that don't have these massive datasets are at a disadvantage.

      But. There are other Machine Learning Algorithms that don't need lots of data, and other forms of AI beyond Machine Learning as well. They are not producing results like Deep Learning powered by artificial neural networks. But, hopefully that will change.

      Avinash.

  10. 27
    Bill Miller says:

    Great post Avinash. You have truly scared me and inspired me.

    My work is currently focussed on Search campaigns for a very large company. I am also responsible for analytics for my function. This post made me realize that half of it could be replaced with ML today – thanks for sharing the examples and links in your marketing section. The other half will possibly occur in the near future.

    Forgive me for I do not plan to send your post to anyone in my company to lengthen my employment. :) I do take your call to action seriously. A new chapter of learning starts today.

    I have not seen other thought leaders in analytics or marketing talk about this topic or process this in a way that you have. Thank you.

  11. 28
    Bill Gassman says:

    Great article Avinash. It is unlikely that deep learning will soon replace the insights and ability to tell stories like you publish. Two main thoughts came to me while reading. First, what about us? Second, what about them?

    First, how will we adapt our way of living to exploit machine learning? Will we exchange algo hacks we've learned, to make a specific machine's reaction tip to our favor? Can we maintain multiple identities (say, personal and business persona), to control which profile our vendor's algorithms reacts to? I hope the interactions between humans and machine can remain a two way street. If AI only mostly to optimize for corporate profits, I'll be disappointed.

    Second, what about them? Most people will not follow the path to a viable carrier that you lay out in your article. As the hamster cages disappear, how will people support themselves and their families. What will they do to keep them busy? There is a stage of enlightenment that seems to be missing. Not taking human factors into consideration is already causing problems in society that machine learning is not yet addressing.

    • 29

      Bill: While in the near-term AI might solve for corporate profits (because of who is investing in it), in the medium-term I believe it will be deployed to solve for all humans. Once we are at super-intelligence (recursive learning), it is hard to predict at the moment who/what will be solved for.

      On the second, see my reply to Paul. I'm afraid I think it is going to be quite difficult for an entire generation, and for countries that are already in a tough place today. People who we don't know what to do with.

      That is a sombre note to end on, so let me say this. Over the very long-term there is a possibility we can actually answer the question why humans live. Then, a super-intelligence or super-intelligence infused into a inorganic entity will likely solve for us for the answer to that question. It might be a very, very good place to be in.

      Avinash.

  12. 30

    Hi Avinash,

    This time your article is nice, scary, and truthful :) It's time for re-engineering ourselves.

    Just for fun, recently I heard a nice simplification for ML and AI.

    ML is the ability to program machines to look at data patterns to give you answers you didn't even ask.

    AI is the ability to program machines to ask questions (and use ML to answer them) you didn't even think of :)

    • 31

      Miroslav: I'll add one more to your arsenal.

      Deepmind used to have a slide outlining their mission. This is what it said:

      Step 1: Fundamentally solve intelligence.

      Step 2: Harness it to solve everything else.

      : )

      Avinash.

  13. 32

    Wow. This is so densely packed with interesting perspectives. Thanks!

    As a software engineer, digital product manager, entrepreneur, and father of a Statistics PhD candidate I already had some background, but there is so much packed in here that is worth further reading.

    Avinash, thanks for your passionate, clear and down to earth writing and for sharing your research and clear thinking about the big picture with the rest of us.

  14. 33
    MPeters says:

    Thanks Avinash. This is a very interesting article.

    My only concern is, that you really have to understand statistics and math at a very advanced level to be competitive as an analyst/data-scientist in the future. Basic statistics/math know-how (regression, cluster-analysis, factor-analysis) does not suffice.

    Hence, only very few and very bright people will survive in the world of analytics.

    • 34

      Marco: You make a very sound argument. I agree with you.

      I still encourage people to learn at least basic statistics/math, as you've defined it. It will make them smarter/better employees even today. And, if they enjoy that work they are only three months away from a nonodegree in AI from Udacity! (Ok, they'll also need at least some basic coding skills, but honestly that is it.)

      Avinash.

  15. 35

    Avinash,
    Very good article (as always). The length, your associated email newsletter and the links alone are going to sit with me awhile and require me to ponder quite a bit more.

    My first response (as a marketer) is it reminds me of Ron & Martha Peppers book that I read in '99 at grad school (The One to One Future: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/724622.The_One_to_One_Future). At the time I read it, I was studying how to go from traditional retail to Ecommerce (what I thought would be the future). Turned out to be a smart career move. So, your notes to students are keen, study math, science, etc.

    My second response is to the fear you talk about. I agree, that when the world (industries, behaviors, creative, etc.) has become fully digitalized, we can trap ourselves (of our own doing) in a paradigm where AI can increasingly define the boundaries and the "value" produced at mass powered by big linked data. Where are the higher order bit opportunities?

    If you look at the wealth created in Silicon Valley, it is apparent, it is a possible new elitism. If you couple this with the "creative industries" that tend to be inefficient and human, philosophically based and at times whimsical, it seems like these industries are utterly losing all of their value. This article puts it quite bluntly: https://medium.com/hi-my-name-is-jon/let-me-break-down-exactly-how-weve-screwed-creative-people-over-2dda7656dae9. Another point here, is when AI powers and defines our context, what is lost? Tristen Harris is a great speaker on this point. His latest article is a short and good read: https://medium.com/swlh/how-technology-hijacks-peoples-minds-from-a-magician-and-google-s-design-ethicist-56d62ef5edf3.

    Lastly, I find the technology and the future terrifically interesting and look at it with optimism. However, I would recommend further readings on AI on the Edge.org such as https://www.edge.org/memberbio/jaron_lanier (Lanier Effect) and https://www.edge.org/conversation/stuart_russell-defining-intelligence. If you go to the site and do a search (powered by Goggle ;-)) on AI and you'll get a lot of good articles here.

    Finally, I've often been puzzled how technologies tend to drive and value further efficiencies and this is where the value comes from. Efficiencies beget more efficiencies. It is why we jokingly check our email or our phones over 100 times a day…looking for more to accomplish. But what do we do with all this "efficiency"?

    • 36

      Elton:First, thank you for sharing Jon's article. I. Love. It.

      Over the very long-term I am optimistic as well. I do not think a human will look like or be like the human we see today. But. Something from the human will remain, and I believe that entity will be happy (if happiness is the ultimate goal of life).

      Avinash.
      PS: What we do with all this efficiency – what we currently call efficiency – is spend more time on our phones! :)

  16. 37
    HL London says:

    Hi Avinash,

    Insightful as always, love the way you write.

    Was this typo deliberate? (bran)

    "Most Deep Learning methods involve artificial neural networks, modeling how our bran works."

    To err is human, but will the machines forgive us?

    • 38

      HL: Ha, ha! No. Not deliberate at all. I need to stop blogging late in the night. :)

      Fixed now, thank you so much for pointing it out. And no, the machines won't forgive!

      Avinash.

  17. 39

    Avinash,

    This post has given me goosebumps. I'm doing digital marketing from last seven years and have seen how Google advance algorithms (panda and penguin) had killed the thousands of link building jobs. I had seen the agencies to fire their employees because of this single change.

    Currently, my job is driving business to my clients from the Google and Facebook. I don't know the ABC of programming and don't know if I can learn it from the scratch.

    I'm planning to start a digital marketing agency to serve the Facebook and AdWords Marketing service but this post has put me in doubt.

    Avinash, can you suggest what should I do? And, I'm learning the CRO as well.

    • 40

      Sandeep: If your business is thriving, you are doing something right. Keep doing it for most of your time.

      On the side, say for 15-20% of the time, invest in yourself and your employees to prepare for the type of advances we've already see in 2016 and more that are coming. Please see the tips in Bhola's comment and my reply to him.

      All the best!

      Avinash.

  18. 41

    Wonderful story telling as usual Avinash……

    As you have pointed out AI has already made huge strides in vocations like digital marketing and some believe we are several decades away from singularity and some say it will be knocking on our doors in next few years.

    For me paradox about AI and eventually singularity is the critical mass which singularity needs should mathematically result in to machines taking care of majority of “white collar” Jobs which you mentioned and which are also currently the engine that keeps economies running. If singularity is to serve human race by bringing in efficiencies especially white collar jobs by replacing human errors and tantrums  wouldn’t it also be doing a great disservice to itself by weakening this engine which runs modern economies all over the world? Especially when you take in to account the job that AI will create will be far lesser than the job it replaces… (One data scientist swapped for 1000 campaign managers?).

    To borrow your analogy from one of your newsletters on same subject this “exponential curve” is destined result in “Singularity” and the paradox which I guess is too much for my tiny human brain, hopefully singularity will have a solution to this with little role for campaign managers like me

    • 42

      Nikhil: I find it helpful to consider the solution space not so much as AI is going to solve the problems we are currently solving (that honestly does not require a super-intelligent entity). It will solve higher-order-bit problems, root causes, completely eliminate entire current value chains.

      Consider what the point is of a modern economy? I mean, what's the point really? What if we ignore all the activity it takes to solve for that point, and just solve the point itself?

      -Avinash.

  19. 43

    It's all happening so fast (head spins), hopefully, I can keep up :-)

    Thanks Avinash :-)

  20. 44

    Well, this will keep me learning for the next week. TYVM & I sincerely meant it.

    Just before reading this I tweeted that it wasn't that long ago when the most complicated thing marketing professionals did were Excel pivot tables.

    Obviously this was a jest, however, a machine learning algorithm comparing job descriptions from 2007 and 2017 might take it as fact.

  21. 45
    Amitabh Sharma says:

    Hi Avinash,

    Quick Question – will ML and AI work for the betterment of the society as a whole or just the selected few people/ nations! for example rapid automation in last 25 years benefited only few with vast majority losing jobs. Any thought?

    • 46

      Amitabh: For the long-term, say 2100, it is very hard to predict.

      In the near-term, say 2030, it is hard to imagine that the normal human patter won't be mimicked. Benefits to the selected few (rich/privileged/have more of x or y). I say this with deep sadness, but it is likely to be true.

      Avinash.

  22. 47

    Hi Avinash, great article!

    Took me ages to read and even longer to process but I'm neither worried for the near future and coming 30 years to come. At present I'm inspired to try harder in solving my habitual thinking that I also need hamsters as I know they are bad for me for a while now!

    As an agency we need to focus more on the endgame and strive for better alternatives that will work for the next ten years instead of what works today. I don’t have any problems with working the with the AI functions in AdWords as what you say is true. It works better and me less so and more $ for my customers. I say www any day.

    On the higher level I’m scared as hell and on eager to see what is out there and possible at the same time. But it doesn’t bother me as I decided some years ago that for me the definition of being rich or having a rich live is to have been able to experience all emotions out there before I leave this planet. This means the highs and the lows as without lows there are no peaks. Come on, no AI will ever beat sitting at the beach on a sunny day listening to the seagulls and kids chatter while feeling the sand between your toes and a could drink in your hand. I try to enjoy them as much as the intellectual part, they are equally important.

    • 48

      Daniel: You have it right. If you are always looking 10 years out and solving for that horizon, you are going to be just fine!

      On your higher level, what if, a hundred and fifty years from now, when you and I are both likely dead but stay with me, the exact feeling you are describing could be had without the beach, the sunny day, the seagulls, kids, sand in your toes and the drinks. Would you not take it? Would it be any less enjoyable? #foodforthought :)

      Avinash.

      • 49

        Hi Avinash, was afraid that that would be the question to ask when I wrote my comment as it’s the logical next step in most visions of the feature. In this vision man breaks free from his physical manifestation and is able to step into a virtual world that is indistinguishable from reality. Combine this with the expectation that we can overcome the negative effect of aging in the next 50 years and we might still be able to see it come to reality for ourselves.

        In your article you write ‘Or… Love. And, there has to be a Move 37 for politics.’ Funny thing is that both are significant for the the current state of AI and it’s limits I think. This because The Counterfactual Regret Minimization technique makes use of the Nash equilibrium where the Nash equilibrium is the main mathematical approach to solving problems in international trade and politics and has been proven to work. To put it simplistically this formula calculates the optimal distribution of benefits where everybody get’s his fair share and most people are satisfied as the optimal outcome or the Nash equilibrium. This leads me to conclude that machines will soon be able to make better decisions for us when it comes to questions of global trade and politics so that is not even SF but a matter building and training the OS? I hope it will use a mockup world for this for our convenience btw. For the rest it’s not much different from Go I guess. In the poker game Counterfactual Regret Minimization looks for the other side of the benefit being regret and extrapolates benefit from it. I was surprised to see that the other part is linear programming that most of us should know if having the benefit of an academic degree. But my insight here is that the future of mankind might just be completely dependent on the Nash equilibrium as it is at the core of economic thinking and cutting edge AI at the same time. Funny thing is that Nash said that he was happy that love was still the big mystery in live that can not be solved or understood with math. At least in the movie A beautiful mind he said this:D

        The answer of would I take a trip to the beach in fully emerging VR lays in what the outcome will be of this distribution of benefits and humankind's ability to be able to recognize and minimize the regret we create for others dealt a lesser hand at the table of life. The next hundred years or so will turn out to be deciding for this I guess. This because when AI will start to do our jobs for us we will soon come to a point where humans only need to sit back and enjoy and the machines will be there to serve us. Or that would be possible if the the economic thinking would change to become wiser because at current the paradigm still seems to be: the winner takes it all and then of course no one wants to lose. Maybe this should be We all win for the tech vision of the future to become reality. It will take a world of hurt to get there for sure as this is also what has driven past and current wars. So I think advancement like this will have most uncertain outcomes and will brings along lots of dangers as the economic value of a human live will become more close to zero. Would I take the VR trip? I guess so because it’s the least horrible outcome I can image so I guess I would be thankful for that and kick back and try to enjoy it a bit? Will it ever happen. Mwa. Not anytime soon if you ask me.

        Now I need to kick back in the sun a bit here and now. It’s spring weather over here right now and this is something special and limitedly available over here! ;) gr

        • 50

          Daniel: : )

          I love your write up on the Nash equilibrium. I've studied quite a bit, and am fascinated.

          On the vacation bit, I was reducing your experience not so much to getting it from VR and more that what if we could directly stimulate the pleasure you get from the scene you describe, directly into your brain (or if we have to speak this way, your heart)? I promise to write more about this in the future, but at the moment it is off-topic for this blog and post.

          Thanks for the fun discussion Daniel.

          Avinash.

        • 51

          Haha. Good choice. Besides some formal macro economics my study is limited to watching A beautiful mind 5 times. I would love to hear your take on this and I'll prepare even better by watching it once more!

          Thank you for your valuable posts and I love them!

          Daniel

  23. 52
    Jay Makwana says:

    Thanks Avinash, going through your article was like a watching the world (enhanced with future technology) in 5,10, 20 and 30 years. I understand that marketing experts will get more valuable target audience using AI and big data to find out the buying intent and connecting it with customer's buying- potential. AI's influence on various aspects of improving lifestyle, healthcare, education and global problem solving sounds exciting. This article helped me learn new concepts and ways of thinking. Thanks for explaining the complex terminologies with real world examples.

    I was wondering how AI will be able to solve the problem of rising unemployment due to automation and machine based dependency. Out of entire population, how many kids will be able to get employment – learning math, physics and all programming that you mentioned is not everyone's cup of tea. If Robots become more intelligent than average human being, why would anyone hire humans who have complex thinking, irregular emotional and mental balance along with multi-dimensional attitude issues.

    Survival of the fittest and best has always been the law of the land, but can we ALL be better than Robots with artificial intelligence (infused by humans) forever? How we educate our kids to get ready for this future, competing with Robots is a serious concern for all of us.

    Just a thought…

    • 53

      Jay: I appreciate your kind words, thank you. I'm glad you found the post to be of value.

      I have not touched on robots, intelligent robots, non-human-biological beings etc., on purpose. A significantly more complicated topic, and also beyond the scope of my expertise. For now, I do encourage you to think of these two things (robots, AI) separately both because it will make understanding each easier and because humans have a limited view of what a robot is.

      AI cannot solve the problem of humans currently here, and one more generation coming behind us. That is why we have Governments and, hopefully, an informed citizenry who elect representatives with the capacity to look out 40 years forward (rather than trick us by fighting the battles from 40 years past).

      Over a long period of time, post Singularity, I believe what it means to be a human will change (so, 50 years from now, really solidified 100 years from now). It won't be human as you think today (this body, this brain, this function). If you take that into account, your last paragraph might be less relevant. :)

      Avinash.

  24. 55

    Thanks Avanish.

    As usual, a great article leveraging your own (human) deep learning and deep thoughts.

    One Question and One Comment

    1. Comment. Homo Deus was one of the scariest books that I have read ever. I had to stop many times before being able to return to reading. Your reference to Yuval harari was a good choice.

    2. Question. As a consultant to many small to medium companies, what tools can we start using to better leverage the benefits of Machine Learning? Is it a matter of building better conversion metrics to give to Adwords so we can switch our bidding to CPA? What about Email tools?

    Thanks

    Brian

    • 56

      Brian: I'd noted in the post, and in some other comments, that most of what's available today is from large companies (because Deep Learning requires massive datasets). Your best bet is to leverage Machine Learning powered tools/services offered by these companies.

      Google certainly has lots of ML now, AdWords is referenced in the post. Our friends at Facebook are also leveraging ML. Also ping any other partner you currently have (sadly, I personally don't know any Email Service Provider doing anything worthy with ML yet).

      Don't limit your horizon though. For example, Google now offers Machine Learnings Services in the cloud. There are seven at the moment. Checkout the cloud based offering to do Predictive Analytics at Scale on your own data.

      If you would like to build your own Machine Intelligence, TensorFlow is open-source.

      Avinash.

  25. 57
    Jack Regehr says:

    Thought One

    You suggest to start learning a lot of math, statistics, computer science and more to get AI jobs. Sounds great for a few people but how well can this scale? We could be entering a world where 1,000 highly qualified candidates apply for one AI job. That job will pay really well but the rest will be busting ass for table scraps. This further concentration of wealth will be bad for everyone. Same goes with the idea of humans working on novel situations – not scalable.

    Thought Two

    Avinash I think you live pretty much in the center of the industry, working for one of the rarefied ‘siren servers.' Thought leaders like you are constantly pulled forward into the future but the scene can look very different in other geographic areas and industries. My point is the rate of technology adoption varies widely. It might be a long time before AI becomes pervasive all around.

    • 58

      Jack:

      Thought One: At the moment you have two choices. If you have an aptitude for math and programming, consider a hard pivot to AI (or atleast Machine Learning). See my plan for my son. If you don't have an aptitude for math and programming, no problem, drive your career evolution where you'll have to solve for "novel situation." There are more than you might imagine, see examples in other comments.

      For the next few years, I do not anticipate a shortage of AI related jobs. But, you are right, there will be winners and non-winners. I'll go so far as to say that countries/people who currently are not in a great position might be harmed the most.

      Thought Two: I agree on your observation about me, others like me. I also agree on the different geo observation, see above. I do not agree with this: "a long time before AI becomes pervasive all around." Unless by long time you mean 10 years or less.

      Avinash.

  26. 59
    Sigfredo says:

    Thanks Avinash for the article, great read.

    Can't see a place either where AI and connected devices can help. It's the social perception what worries me the most. I understand jobs will change (it always have been like that), and the one's who are better prepared for those endless changes will have better opportunities.

    People on average have better tools to enjoy life than ever before. We live longer and can travel affordably; we have streaming tools to access movies and music; digital newspapers; and a very long etc. including virtual experiences.

    + Do we dream other people's lives too much and then we feel hopeless when our dream don't work as expected?

    + Are we able to build and work for our OWN dream without having to live other people's lives?

    Life is not only about technology. There are many other areas worth researching, just find the one you are more comfortable with and can guarantee you future returns. In that case, just remember that technology will always help for your legit business to evolve.

    • 60

      Sigfredo: I agree, life is not only about technology. In this post I wanted to highlight that technological progress is going to affect very facet of our lives (no matter what our jobs/country/desires) in profoundly dramatic ways.

      To your wonderful thought-provoking questions: Yes. Maybe.

      Avinash.

  27. 61

    Hi Avinash,
    Recently turned a dad and tried explaining the logic behind Excel's IF formula to put the baby to sleep, literally. In all honesty, it's scary to even think what higher education will look like in 18 years, what kind of subjects would kids need to prepare for in advance and then take when the time comes. What kind of jobs would be interesting? Would programming be a pre-requisite for any job?

    We're taking small steps at work. For quite a few campaigns, we have switched from manual CPCs / Enhanced CPCs to CPA based bidding and found that this helps save us quite some time on optimizations while still getting the same CPAs as under manual bidding process.

    For upcoming analysts, the #1 skill I would recommend is having empathy. Think about your client first. There have been times where I've revisited some of my old PowerPoints and thought, damn, that was a data overload. Analysts need to be able to answer the "So What?" and "What Now?" in things they do.

    I also think it's super important to not be a one trick pony. You might be able to call yourself just a social / SEO / SEM person (for now) but that will only get you so far. As an analyst, you need to be able to do many things while being really good at a few things.

  28. 62

    Of all your books and posts, this has been the most important piece I have read.

    I was wondering how best to implement your personal strategy, specifically the first two steps of:

    – Understand reality
    – Invest in continuous learning

    What's the best way to continue to understand the reality of AI and the new predictions of how it will impact us? I get intermittent info on this through posts like yours,. It would love to get to a point where I'm more consistently learning about this reality. I love in the Bay, so any groups or events you think are helpful would also be appreciated.

    As for investing in continuous learning, is the Udacity course mentioned above your rec? Or if we think about a more holistic process (such as your four hours a week), do you have a good framework to how to best prioritize learning given the future?

    Thanks again for all that you do.

    • 63

      Earl: I am a voracious consumer of content, always with an eye towards new possibilities. This is reading lots of blogs, books, videos, many different topics (though 60% related to my areas of expertise). Reading, listening, watching. This is my strategy of understanding reality.

      And then learning for me is… If relevant to work then put it into practice with the team I have the privilege of leading at work. Or invest my own time outside of work to practice. Or speaking about a topic in my keynotes. Etc.

      Avinash.

  29. 64
    Neil Powers says:

    I join others in expressing my gratitude for this amazing post Avinash. I've followed the blog from the start. Looking at random posts across the years clearly shows you've constantly evolved yourself. Likely the reason for your success. Your four hours per week are on clear display here.

    I followed the bonus links in your TMAI newsletter on this topic. The one in Wired had a hopeful perspective. Fan Hui has been training with AlphaGo. His global ranking has skyrocketed. Perhaps AI will result in smarter humans rather than some of the threads in other comments here. What do you think?

    • 65

      Neil: Another reader just expressed this thought, great minds think alike. :)

      Fan Hui's ranking has indeed done really well since he started to play against AlphaGo (the ranking increase against other Go grandmasters). I do not anticipate this being a long-term trend as AI will grow, for the lack of a better word, smarter way, way faster than us.

      If it is helpful you can think about it this way: Near-term, humans get better as AI pushes our capabilities. Med-term, AI complements human compute capabilities gaps because AI is so much smarter than us at those things. Long-term, AI approaches or exceeds super-intelligence.

      Avinash.

  30. 66

    Wanted to thank you for TMAI#52. We took your 18-months timeline very seriously (because we want to stay in business) and started building this AI tool that can understand the primary business objective, quality of design and persuasion of a webpage and return a score. AI is certainly going to be a threat to our job if we do not start selling it. The tool is currently in beta, would love to hear your feedback. https://goo.gl/diKdkL

  31. 67
    Gabriella says:

    Just interested in having your opinion about this article published this week in the Economist http://www.economist.com/news/business-and-finance/21719761-probably-not-humans-have-lot-learn-equine-experience-will-robots?cid1=cust/ednew/n/bl/n/20170330n/owned/n/n/nwl/n/n/eu/19950/n
    Clearly a handful of highly skilled individuals will be able to survive, but what will happen to the rest, those who don't have the skills, the access to the resources, education etc…?

    • 68

      Gabriella: Thanks for sharing the article. Six human jobs lost due to one robot seems reasonable.

      Please see my reply to Jay re Robots. To add to that… In this post my overwhelming concern, re AI, was related to white-collar jobs (the ones so seemingly secure). Robots are currently affecting blue-collar jobs, and will one day also jobs that we have no one to do at the moment (so new jobs). All this of course has associated impact on a human's ability to be employed.

      Avinash.
      PS: There is one obvious flaw in their metaphor… The "extra" horses were sent off for their meat or to the glue factory. Then, reproduction of horses also got massively disincentivized. Neither one of these things is a choice for "extra" humans left over due to robotics. Creating perhaps a bigger, different than horses, problem.

  32. 69
    Craig McCarthy says:

    Brilliant article Avinash. Simply Brilliant.

    This is a wakeup call for all Analysts as most are engaged in frequent high-volume tasks. The problem even touches Google. My employer is a fortune 100 company. We had an Senior Analytical Lead present Google insights for an hour to our marketing leadership. It was, to use your phrase, a massive data puke. Machine Learning will surely eliminate this job while making the output better.

    We have to change the focus of our own analytics team. It looks like we have a couple years max.

  33. 70
    Mark Stephen says:

    Yes! It's True that Artificial Intelligence really affects the marketing strategies and analytics used by the marketing individuals. We have not yet devoted enough time to thinking about how to adapt our execution. Partially due to all this being new.

    I appreciate you flagging this for our attention early. Thanks.

  34. 71

    Hi Avinash,
    Really appreciate your posts… lots of great material!

    I don't think you really wanted to use the term 'jumped the shark' in this one, though. This expression comes from the infamous Happy Days episode that marked the turning point when the series started dying. It's an expression used to signal a turning point for the worse… something like 'bit the dust', only slower. Maybe 2016 was the year when AI 'shifted into high gear'?

    Will have a think about this one…

    • 72

      David: The dangers of being an immigrant!

      I was totally using it wrong, and I have corrected it now to 'shifted into high gear' as you've suggested.

      Thank you.

      Avinash.
      PS: I need a new shift metaphor with a shark or something in it. Ideas welcome. :)

  35. 73
    Annette McMahon says:

    This is a great article.

    I was among many who confused Machine Learning and Deep Learning. Thank you for clarifying that along with introducing us to other Machine Learning approaches.

    We have experimented with creative and bidding options in adwords that are using machine learning. It has been positive from conversions for us. It is hard to try and give up years of our experience trying to control every bit of the process. We are still creating new habits.

  36. 74

    Hi Avinash,

    This is real. I find that many people (mainly those who are not in tech) that I interact with either (a.) don't even know A.I. is on the horizon or (b.) are too apprehensive to discuss the topic any deeper than surface level.

    With some of the smartest minds in the world extremely concerned about the upcoming implications, I am quite intrigued by the topic and want to stay 'in the know' as much as possible to utilize 'pivot points' as you say. We all probably have a grocery list of skills and tend to focus on one or a couple but believe me, if something I currently focus on is automated I will pivot into another skill as needed. Also, the continual upkeep of education.

    I ponder questions like: If automation wipes out a large percentage of jobs, won't there be fewer people to buy stuff? And if the major brands rely on mass adoption to sustain, will that entire business model change? Then you start getting into topics about the Universal Base Income :O

    Personally, I hope for (and contribute to) a brighter future with A.I. where automation exponentially improves life, but the one big obstacle I see to that is the resistance to change by humanity itself.

    Really exciting times to say the least. Thanks for sharing, Avinash.

    • 75

      Alan: Certainly some of the implications you mention will come true. I hope that, as always, humans will see that they can be a part of the solution – ideas in the blog post – rather than letting the new possibilities create harm to them as they stay put.

      Like with every technological revolution in our brief history on the planet, there will be short-term pain. I'm optimistic about the medium-term outlook.

      Avinash.

  37. 76
    Aditya Nath Jha says:

    Hi Avinash,

    This is a comment on the long term aspect of Super AI.

    In Drake's equation, the answer to "how many technologically advanced civilisations exist in the Universe" varies drastically with just one variable – how long "can" a technologically advanced civilisation exist without destroying itself? If the answer is 200 years, or thereabouts (we know only about ourselves and if we destroy ourselves tomorrow), then, at any given point in time the universe would have only one such civilisation. However, if the answer is 5000 years, the universe is teeming with such civilisations. A consequence of this is that if we do encounter an alien civilisation, they would have, almost by definition, learnt to survive and would be, dare I say, "morally superior". If not, they would have destroyed themselves.

    This gives hope. As intelligence (AI or otherwise) grows, there will be a stage when it becomes "dangerous". But, if we assume that the growth will be exponential, this should be a small phase. After that, it's intelligence will make it avoid "destructive paths".

    Excellent article!

    • 77

      Aditya: A very valuable perspective, thank you so much for framing it for all of us.

      My personal belief is that the universe is teeming with civilizations. Our challenge is if we'll be able to recognize it given our view of what we consider to be "life" and/or "intelligence."

      And, while it might not happen in our lifetime, the current descriptions of both will change in the next handful of generations.

      Avinash.

  38. 78

    Avinash,

    My friend, it has been a while since I last commented but this is another excellent post.

    If the AI take over of 25% of jobs by the year 2026 is accurate I need to do a few things since I will not be quite ready to retire then.

    1. Start investing more in AI developing companies. 2. Learn a new discipline because it does seem analytics will be part of that 25%.

    But your statement "This is simply because analytics vendors are still not taking the ML revolution seriously. Not at Adobe, not at Google, not at SAP, not at IBM." makes me feel much better since my company is 1/3 the way through implementing SAP. ;o)

    Kevin (from Cincinnati)

  39. 79

    Thank you Mr. Kaushik. As the digital world becomes more sophisticated, it will indeed solve problems with greater efficacy. But I reckon it will also make humans even more thirsty for mystery. And that may be the biggest disruption of all. We are spiritual creatures, after all, living in an increasingly digital economy.

    What is mystery? Think about it as the unknown that is potentially knowable but not in a digital way. …. The beautiful irony … this mysterious transcendence comes from being present in the tangible world.

    Mystery brings us deep joy that comes from awareness, surrender, trust, acceptance and gratitude. Consciousness is far more than the ability to feel things — it is connection with the infinite, the infinite that resides within and connects all beings. Transcendence takes us directly to the strange and the wondrous. Who can witness a rainbow and not feel their hearts lift?

    Can AI do this? …

    And yet, will this mystery become more and more and more important to people. Can such transcendence be monetized? How much will folks pay to welcome mystery in their lives? What company could ignore such a market of "affluent explorers"? What government?

    I love your humor and your ability to spin a yarn. I I am grateful you are focusing on storytelling in our accelerated age. Stories bring us meaning and crack open our hearts and imaginations so we may grow.

    AI can bring us remarkably efficient marketing. But what about story-telling? For we humans, narrative is king. So as we teach our children, we must introduce them to the power and nuances of storytelling – not simply to achieve goals, but to encourage each other and to read the storytelling strategy of others … businesses… the state.

    There is no more powerful story of transformation that the one that takes the truth of someone's existence – his or her experience – and allows them to be both author and main character, opening the pathway from that experience to compassion. And from compassion to service. And from service to joy.

    Thank you for your service. Blessings to you.

    • 80

      Steven: I am grateful for your perspective, and valuable reminders. Thank you.

      In the last segment, I separate Intelligence and Consciousness on purpose. My post covers the former (and it's coming disruptive impacts, on Marketing and beyond), and I don't have enough expertise to opine on Consciousness except to say that at the moment no one seems to be tackling it.

      Until then, :), you are right to stress the value of mystery, the value of transcendence for us and for life.

      I have to admit, I can see someone read this blog at this very moment and figuring out how to use AI to make our mysteries more mysterious and our transcendence more transcendent!

      Avinash.
      PS: One other thought that keeps me up in context of your comment: What is the purpose of human life? I do mean purpose. It is entirely possible that a Super-Intelligence can very logically solve for us for that purpose. If it does, do we still need the multitudes of needs we express today… and the efforts we expend in their pursuit?

      • 81

        I like the way you think, Avinash.

        As for purpose of life, do we need anyone to tell us what we already know in our hearts? Be still. Listen. It's there. I can read it in unwritten CAPS throughout your comments about your children. It is the only thing that has kept humankind going generation by generation by generation by generation. The amazingly powerful force that multiplies when it is given freely and peters out completely when it is hoarded. The superhighway to the infinite. And the most grounding, comforting experience any of us have. Hold someone's hand, you feel it. Look at the stars, you feel it. Our ancestors saved it for us, passed it on. And without even a moment's cognition, we know our greatest achievement will be to do the same. Continue the species, nurture it — so that life may thrive and wither and thrive and wither in this glorious undying mortality. Someone might call this sustainability. I call it love. And for me, the understanding … and the purpose … and the mystery … is complete.

        BTW, your idea about AI and consciousness reminded me of a project I am conjuring about just that goal. Please DM me on Twitter @stevencrandell if you would like to discuss.

        Meantime, please tell your friends and family, that they are lucky ducks to have you in their midst. We are all gifts to each other. Thank you for giving of yourself so freely through this blog. (Beautiful engagement!)

        P.S. Here is a piece that also reminds me of this discussion. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/steven-crandell/statistical-measurements-_b_3792675.html

  40. 82

    Hey Avinash,

    A very great and well thoughtful blog written by you , thinking of the future on how AI can impact marketing , analytics and even human beings is in itself a very optimistic and amazing thing.

    The affect of AI on business and marketing is increasing day by day and you have brought a very nice insight through this blog.

  41. 83
    Alejandro says:

    Oh my, It seems Skynet is coming our way.

    I think it's amazing how we are creating the next step of evolution.

    Be nice to machines. Even to your blender. :)

  42. 84

    Hello Avinash, thank you for yet another thought-provoking blog entry!

    Using your move 37 analogy I wonder how often we would run into a situation when a "human" analyst is not well equipped to adequately analyze performance of the marketing campaigns designed by ML algorithms. They might have differing optimization criteria, evaluation methodology, or the worst case scenario – lack of alignment on the goal at hand.

    Thank you for sharing your ideas,

    Alex

    • 85

      Alex: I say this with deepest humility on behalf of the human race… we probably run into that lack of equipment at least six billion times per day!

      :)

      Avinash.

  43. 86
    Kacey America says:

    Hi Avinash,

    I was wondering what your thoughts are on automating the whole marketing process via AI computers and software. The global trend is now that robots and AI are taking peoples jobs (not that I am against evolution or something).

    So, what if a Software could do all the marketing process a marketer could do, both online and offline. What are your thoughts on this issue?

    • 87

      Kacey: Some of this automation already exists (just ping your internal team or Agency responsible for your Search and Display campaigns), and the rest is on it's way. We still have to solve Identity, a small blip on the way to almost complete automation.

      There are still some "novel situations" (see post for this) where Marketers for now will add value.

      Looking over a longer horizon, the process of influence (marketing) and pimping (sales) is going to change dramatically from what we imagine today. So. A lot more disruption to come.

      Avinash.

  44. 88

    Brilliant Article Avinash! Love you Writing! Since last few weeks – I have been sharing all of your post on AI to my friends and family.

    It is surely an another industrial revolution which we all should be aware of.

  45. 89

    Wow, a dazzling post! I was having a conversation with my wife yesterday about AI / Machine Learning. This topic is keeping my mind busy for a while now. I do believe, in the long term, it will bring good to humanity. But I really fear for the short term, say the coming three decades. People with basic education (or less) will suffer the most (like always). Saying we all should invest in learning math and programming skills sounds very logic, but is not very realistic for the majority of the human race.

    To be honest, I don't think there is a solution to solve or prevent the negative effects of the introduction of AI / ML into our economy, regarding to the loss of jobs. I dare to say I think it will be catastrophic.

    Why? Because the forces behind the development of AI / ML right now, are not interested to serve mankind, they are interested to make a profit, and as long as profit is the driving force behind it, mankind in its entirety will not benefit from it, in the short term. (the profit to be expected is the driving force behind development as always)

    But why does this scare the hell out of me more than ever before?

    Because I dare to say the industrial revolution we've had so far did not have an impact on mankind as big as AI and all things related will have.

    Looking beyond the subject of jobs, very few people (if any) at this moment understand the full scale of things to come. Never before we've created something that might be more intelligent than us. Stronger, faster, bigger yes, but smarter no. You can not control something that is smarter than you. You can try, maybe succeed for a while, but in the end you'll lose. And then what?

    Well, call me a fool, but I believe that will be the moment AI will bring good to mankind. Why? Because only something smarter dan us will finally make us see that chasing profit/money, power, and destroying our planet while doing it, are keeping us from evolving to a better future for all mankind.

    Something more intelligent than us will hand us "move 37 to a better future".
    I can only hope I'll live to tell…

    • 90

      Eric: I'm afraid I share your assessment… the impact from the disruptive changes, all due to good intent, will be rather catastrophic.

      I don't know how old you are, but assuming you are as old as I am, :), I suspect we will see the beginning of the impact of all these changes at scale… but we won't live long enough to see it all play out. That is for our children to deal with (hence an entire section in this post focussed on my kids).

      I do feel we don't know where this is all headed. Especially if in two generations from ours you throw in the fact that humans won't be biological as today, and in five generations perhaps only retain a small percentage of the biology as we know it today. The combination of intelligence ("software") with consciousness ("soul") with physical ("hardware") changes will mean change on a scale that we simply can't even imagine it.

      -Avinash.

      PS: See Aditya Nath Jha's comment for an interesting take on if Intelligence (Superintelligence) will become destructive.

  46. 91
    Shaun Marrs says:

    As other people have said, this is looking like another step forward for Skynet!

    I have been really impressed with some advancements in optical character recognition recently too and some of the artificial limb developments.

  47. 92
    Karthik rajeshwaran says:

    Superb perspective especially on what it takes to brave the future.

    Thanx Avinash,

  48. 93
    alessandro says:

    Hi Avinash i would suggest the reading of the following interview with Facebook AI Director Yann LeCun, here:

    http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/artificial-intelligence/facebook-ai-director-yann-lecun-on-deep-learning with a particular attention where he declares: >> My least favorite description is, “It works just like the brain [Talking about Deep Learning, my note] .” I don’t like people saying this because, while Deep Learning gets an inspiration from biology, it’s very, very far from what the brain actually does. And describing it like the brain gives a bit of the aura of magic to it, which is dangerous. It leads to hype; people claim things that are not true. AI has gone through a number of AI winters because people claimed things they couldn’t deliver. <<

    I have felt, in reading your post ,that your Point Of View isa little more similar to those who compares AI and DL to some brain functions … while LeCun is insisting that it can be more hype than an accurare conclusion… hope this article can be useful to this topic… What do you think?

    • 94

      Alessandro: I don't think we are in disagreement. I was careful to stress that deep learning algorithms are modeled on the human brain. That's about it.

      We don't know enough about how the human brain, and in part one scary thing is that we don't really know how these algorithms really work. We just know that they do. Consider what Deepmind is doing with reinforcement learning, we know the machine is really, really, really, really smart. But, we can't explain why it is that smart. From there to "omg, how will we control it" is a hop skip and a jump (assuming control is a desired strategy).

      Avinash.

  49. 95
    Eric L Olson says:

    Avinash,

    Thank you for articulating what has been a growing concern of mine for the last few years. As a non-technical person it was easy to think I was getting caught up in the hype of AI and that the true concerns with my future employment and moreover the US employment situation in general were overblown. Upon reflection it seems likely the impact is understated.

    My background is very much non-stem and I don't believe I have the ability to ramp up from where I am to position myself for an AI job. In all likelihood I will be replaced by some code down the road. This is causing an existential crisis for me – as a new father who wants the best for my son, I am terrified that I will be unable to provide. I am the coal miner of the 21st century but the rate and magnitude of the change is such that I don't see an positive exit for me.

    We can hope our politicians are able to figure out a solution but Treasury Secretary Mnuchin has said AI is 50 years from taking jobs and mass unemployment and I don't hear it brought up by other politicians. Our government does not move with great speed when it comes to technological change. We often find ourselves way behind from a policy standpoint.

    As it stands every time I ruminate on this, I get overwhelmed with feelings of worthlessness and fear. I do not think I like this future very much.

    • 96

      Eric: I am not sure where your current core skills and current employment is, but if I had an opportunity you (and I!) could explore areas where you (and I) can tackle novel situations.

      Currently there are so many of them. Not just the obvious ones in the creative fields but anywhere you identify that intuition can play a role, you have to deal with human uncertainty, incomplete or fragile data, and on and on.

      Even in the field I sit in, all the currently thought of "data jobs" will absolutely go away, but bridging the last-mile of data to action remains a "novel situation" in context of strategic decisions (tactical actions will also all go away).

      My encouragement would be to explore that now, and start to shift to tackling novel situation jobs. You don't have to be an Engineer to do that.

      Congratulations on becoming a dad! It has been the most blessed occurence of my life, my best role. :)

      Avinash.

  50. 97

    Artificial Intelligence will erode demand for some marketing skills but will increase the demand for others

    • 98

      Susan: It is hard to say with 100% certainty what will happen. It is my personal assessment at the moment that while demand of other skills will improve in the near term, it is difficult to know if we will have people who will have those skills or that all people who lose will have new jobs.

      Beyond that my current assessment is that AI, say 30 – 50 years down the road will eliminate completely lots of jobs in many sectors. We simply won't need humans. That will present a challenge.

      Avinash.

  51. 99
    Ashish Khanduja says:

    Loved every word of what you have written !

    Have spent considerable amount of time in last seven years on industry leading thoughts you gave to a large FMCG almost a decade back. I have moved on to Auto industry platform and these thoughts are going to be invaluable as we start shaping the future of digital in auto industry.

    Thanks
    Ashish

  52. 100

    Brilliant!

    Thank you Avinash Kaushik! You truly are a pioneer in the digital world & I learn so much with every piece of data you share. AI & BI have been an area that has really intrigued me lately and your rare post looking into the future is exactly what I needed.

  53. 101
    Fahad Siddiqui says:

    An amazing read Kaushik, good to know that I was not mad to be scared and to continuously think about many of the things you mentioned.

    What do you think is the scope of psychology or psychiatrists?

    • 102

      Fahad: I'm afraid I don't quite have the expertise to opine on Psychology or Psychiatrists.

      I'd linked to NTT Resonant in the post (the AI that gives love advice). That is perhaps an early indicator of where things are headed.

      Meanwhile, while we have made progress on "ability to solve problems" (intelligence), in my humble opinion we are quite far away from the "ability to feel things" (consciousness). The latter might be important with regards to question.

      Avinash.

  54. 103

    Dear Avinash,

    Incredible article with some priceless suggestions for the aspirant in AI field! I wish I could have read your article when I was young. But, it is not late though, I am doing everything possible now.

    You are really inspiring!

    Best Regards
    Naveen

  55. 104
    karthick says:

    Well written article. It gives me an insight how the world is going to be looking roughly in the coming years.

    And to the point on consciousness, the current path is and it always was and in future also is through Yoga/Meditation & spirituality. This helps you to increase your consciousness

  56. 105

    After reading your content, it seems that AI will take the position of many computer related jobs. In few decade or so we will see the big change we do the work. Recently Google also showed that the AI can predict the outcome of the human. It just needs sufficient data log to predict what the person will be doing next.

    I think it will speed up the human growth dramatically but the concern is it will also take jobs aways from the human.

    Let see where we are heading.

    Thank you for sharing good content.

    • 106

      Pramod: In the near term, AI will make humans smarter, more creative, more agile in their thinking. Over the next two decades, AI should exceed super intelligence. In parallel the hardware humans possess (the body) should also get various electronic upgrades, perhaps unleashing smarts, creativity and agility we can't even imagine today.

      But, then when you look closer to 2050 and beyond, it is unclear what the purpose of humans will be.

      -Avinash.

  57. 107

    The technological advancement will make our life easy in coming years. The only problem with AI is, who is using it. If the good people using it then they will use to create comfort around them, but if the AI is in the hand of the bad people then your personal data and millions of important file might be at risk.

    That's why many companies are trying to make it open source so everyone will have access to it.

    • 108

      Pallavi: I agree partly, consider though how difficult it is to define "good people." Consider that by country, company, people types, education levels, job descriptions, g and ngos, so on.

      I also wanted to share that there are some entities that are thinking of this. For example, the Beneficial AI 2017 Conference.

      You'll see that pretty much everyone who is anyone in AI was there, I am a huge supporter of this type of collaboration by people who know what is actually happening to create guidance for the rest of us as to how things need to evolve.

      Avinash.

  58. 109
    Kirill Petrovsky says:

    Avinash, this post and your recent interview on the Six Pixels of Separation podcast are really insightful, especially given your inside knowledge on Google products. I was looking for more information on how ML and AI will impact marketing, and found exactly that. Thanks :)

    The problem I see is monopolization. Large data owners (Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon and few others) will be able to build "marketing black boxes", which will even customize ad creative for each impression based on the person seeing the ad. This will work with minimal human input or even without it. And these "black boxes" will provide better campaign performance compared to campaigns managed by any human. Other companies will not be able to replicate this success, as they don't have access to the vast amount of data signals about people's activities. And a limited amount of competitors will inevitably lead to a loss of innovation.

    What's your take on that?

    • 110

      Kirill: Think of a hockey stick line (exponential change/growth/innovation). From where we are standing, everything looks flat. Yet, the line is going to go almost straight up as we move in time.

      In the history of technology (and I mean hundreds of years), it has never been true that one entity has managed to take their current position and transfer it forward. Even if they innovate like heck, it is has never seem to have come to pass. Lots of reasons for that.

      Hence, I remain very optimistic that a thousand flowers will bloom and some of them will become new giant oaks.

      -Avinash.

  59. 111

    Amazing article as always.

    Im a PPC manager. I scale business using all my experience in the last 6 years. I'm good at it. However in the last year I start seying a lot of PPC software that provides better insights then my usual excel sheet. I started to get worry. I'm seying a huge delopement on the PPC world with the help of AI.

    It hurts a bit. So much time spent in marketing, strategys, analytics to help my clients and I'm getting replaced by a machine in 3 to 4 years :P.

    Well at the same time is refreshing. My knowledge will not disappear. I just need keep learning.

    My idea in February was to go to Python (what do you think?) and data analyzes. However I'm now pointing to the nanodegree.

    It's time for it. Python, computer science and then the nano degree.

    Let's go for it :)

    • 112

      Pedro: Let me share that I've had the same moment of reckoning on the Analytics side, where most of my expertise is.

      There is no question in my mind that in less than a handful of years digital campaigns will be automated and powered by lovely Deep Neural Networks. Simply because we will have more data available, and the complexity of what needs to get done is exponentially changing. I already run campaigns where all I do is give AdWords the Profit or CPA I want, give it a bunch of creatives and let it do its thing. It works really well – and it will only get better.

      On the positive side, I now have time to do more value add things. Focus on business strategy (as a consultant you can charge a lot more for this!). Focus on improving the end to end customer experience. Focus on the company's org structure. Focus on identifying how to do better with our efforts in innovation. Etc. Etc. Work that is harder, but more satisfying.

      I don't know if this will continue forever, but at the moment it looks like a great trade-off. :)

      -Avinash.
      PS: Do you get my newsletter TMAI? The edition from last night, #88, has a cluster of books, videos, people and courses I recommend. Check out your inbox for that.

      • 113

        Avinash: Is there maybe a way to access your newsletter #88? I've just signed up for TMAI, and hence have no access to the previous pieces, although I would be very interested.

        Thanks,
        Tomi

      • 116

        Hello Avinash,

        Thank you for taking time respondind to my comment.

        Of course I have your newsletter ;)

        I will give all the consultancy in digital marketing and at the same time taking those courses ;)

        Time to get updated with new things that will help to differentiate myself :)

        P.S. We need a new book from you Avinash. Please consider it :P

  60. 117

    Avinash,

    Fantastic energy and passion dripping throughout your article. I am a Technical Recruiter who was recently given a position to fill focusing on AI/ML, and quite honestly, I was in the dark. I found myself reading about it well past midnight and kept your article up as a refresh go-to reference.

    In reading about the capabilities, I find myself wondering if my job will even be necessary in the next 10-15 years. Algorithms could be used to locate candidates who graduated in ____, have had no more than ____ jobs, worked at _______ for _____ years, followed a specific progression in their career, and are within two connections of someone named _________, making them an ideal first candidate to source and contact about a specific job. It's almost scary, but a reminder of the future possibilities for my 3-year old son.

    Keep up the passionate writing – you have earned a truly interested reader!
    Joe

    • 118

      Joe: It will do even better than you describe.

      The Deep Learning algorithm will have access to the resume data you mention in your comment, it will also have access to all data for all your employees ever. This will include their performance at your company (their quarterly/annual ratings), each individual's willingness to take on cross-functional projects, their promotions, the impact on your company's business (beyond ratings), and of course all their resume data. This performance inside your companies – what it takes to be an exceptional employee in your unique company – will be connected with the candidate's resume to make a ever smarter decision than just where they went to school or last employer.

      Consider also that there is a ton of publicly available data about each candidate – the volunteer work they do, their side projects with other companies, their writing, like mine here, etc. – that can also be fed into this Neural Network. It will have even better ability to use that, and all the knowledge above, to help you hire a more perfect fit for the position in your company.

      Loads of change to come over the next two decades.

      Avinash.

  61. 119
    Luis Gellon says:

    Hi Avinash,

    Thanks for another great article!

    Just looking at the implications of Deep Learning, it reminds me of attending classes and learning how to programme, how to create algorithms and that is what Deep Learning is all about.
    Deep Learning is how to learn to teach / self-correct the machine.
    So what level of programming is going to be needed into the future is radically changing.

    AI is more than that; Deep Learning is one building block.

    For the sake of our discussion, I like to shift our focus to a more philosophical subject.

    I know it can fire some controversy, but I believe we are creating a new life form based on silicon and energy. And because of its nature, only "intelligence" is possible on this version of the machine, after all, we are creating AI.
    This new form transcends the physical boundaries we humans have, including the concept of identity associated to it.

    Now we are providing a way to the machine to move beyond doing things for us as a robot do, to Deep Learning what is around, communicating and the next step is "to make sense" of this world.

    Spike Jonze wrote and directed Her, on his movie he explores the speed of connectivity between AI and the power that would bring, getting closer to what we call consciousness.

    Some define consciousness as a Human quality, but I think is self-awareness, and self-awareness is present in every life form. As part of self-awareness there is self-preservation.
    Even the smallest microorganism carries life which makes it reproduce or multiply and avoid its enemies.

    What we are facing is Evolution which is bigger than we can see, we are part of the process.

    Nothing to worry about just a thought, just life.

    P.S. Jobs of the future: poetry, acting, community building, art, Human consciousness development, Inner wellbeing.

    • 120

      Luis: I'm being pedantic, but one huge difference between algorithms of the past and deep learning is that in the past we would teach, the algorithms now learn. It seems like a small thing, it is massive.

      Teach is telling an algorithm exactly what a table is, defining the thousands of types of tables, writing down all kinds of very specific stuff, and then the algorithm recognizes a table. If it encounters a table that is unlike anything you've programmed, it can't recognize it.

      Learn is simply feeding tons and tons of pictures of tables to an algorithm, and it learns to recognize what a table is. The brilliant bit is that if it encounters a table that is unlike anything it has seen before, the chances are it is going to still accurately figure out that it is a table. Just like a human (or a child!) learns to.

      To your point on Silicon… Some say that the only difference between us and other living things, or even sand, is just the way in which atoms are arranged. Ergo… :) This falls outside my area of competence, but it would not be out of the realm of possibility that humans take control of evolution and direct it.

      Avinash.

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