Artificial intelligence (AI) finds itself at the forefront of discussions, with the recent Netflix release – ‘The Social Dilemma’. The documentary focuses on the tactics and technologies that social media companies such as Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and Instagram utilise to encourage sustained usage of their sites.
It paints a bleak picture of a social media obsessed society, highlights a lack of industry regulation and questions the ethical integrity of organisations designing the platforms. AI is presented as a covert manipulative force, with machine learning algorithms implicated as a leading contributor to peoples addiction to these sites.
But, as anyone involved in the day-to-day workings of AI knows, it’s not the tool to hold to account. AI is merely a helper, an enabler, not the director. Siri, Cortana and Alexa for example work directly for the end user, they are virtual helpers. They are guided by instructions given, whether it be to find the nearest petrol station or latest movie.
In a social media context, AI and its algorithms supply information that we consciously (or subconsciously) are demanding, based on our online habits. It considers our routines, interests and interactions, and develops a profile on the things we might like. It then presents those to us, often in the form of ads. It’s genius at work.
It means marketers no longer bombard us with ads for products we’re not interested in, and they reduce their cost of customer acquisition as it only spends money advertising to people who are likely to buy. It’s highly sophisticated advertising, or should we say, ‘intelligent’ advertising.
AI’s usage in business is expansive. For companies operating amid the 2020 pandemic, AI has been a lifeline as recently highlighted by Gartner “chatbots helped answer the flood of pandemic-related questions, computer vision helped maintain social distancing and machine learning models were indispensable for modelling the effects of reopening economies.”
Albert AI for example, is programmed to execute and deliver real business outcomes. Give him a set budget and mission, and he goes to work. Natori, a leading US luxury fashion house, recently enlisted Albert to drive conversions and transform their digital strategy. Not only did Albert exceed his KPI’s (boosting conversions by 24% in just a month), he discovered new high-performing audiences that the marketing team had never considered, then automatically shifted resources to grow the channel.
So, while social media leaders are undoubtedly leveraging AI to improve the vibrancy of online communities and tailor user experience, AI is not the bad guy here. AI does not control lives or thoughts, or force people into losing motivation or interest in the real world, it is a supporting mechanism.
At the end of the day, it comes down to the user. There must be self-accountability and self-control. If social media sites are truly dominating lives, then stepping away from the platforms must surely be the only answer.
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