AI? Usually Helpful, Sometimes Annoying

By George Farris

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – If you’ve watched developments in artificial intelligence, you’ve probably heard the paranoid whispers that one day an army of AI robots will rise up, take over the world and enslave the human race. That’s crazy, right? Maybe not.

What if … I mean … What if?  What if the paranoid whispers come from someone with inside information? What if world governments are in cahoots with the AI robots? Maybe there will be an AI zombie apocalypse instead of regular zombies. There will be AI zombie robots that resemble Bill Gates.

I’m not saying it will happen. But hey, let’s keep alert, right?

Back to Basics

“AI is often confused with automation,” says Dr. Mark Nasila, chief analytics officer at First National Bank of Pennsylvania. “But they are different. AI mimics human intelligence decisions. Automation streamlines repetitive tasks.”

Corinium, a marketing insights firm, says with AI, machines are given access to data and then can learn from it and do something about it.

Cash registers and computers are machines connected to marketing. Customer interfaces like Alexa and Siri receive questions or orders. Within seconds, the machines (computers) to which they’re connected are generating answers to your questions, submitting your orders and scheduling delivery.

How AI Helps

Artificial intelligence can handle many marketing functions faster and more accurately than humans. Those functions may be data analysis, research, media buying, content generation, even personalized customer messages.

Marketing Evolution, a performance-measuring firm, says AI reduces risk, provides increased speed and greater customer satisfaction. Ultimately it could lead to increased revenue. AI can project likely sales, enable chatbots and even become first-line customer service reps. It gives consumers immediate and accurate answers.

AI also has the ability to increase campaign ROI, improve customer relationships, provide real-time personalization, enhance marketing measuring and allow for faster decisions.

Costs, Next Steps

Smaller businesses may not have the budget for full-blown AI software and hardware solutions. But there are plenty of smaller steps that can benefit your organization. The first step is knowledge. Learn all you can. Sign up for seminars. Read sales materials, websites and more.

The Flip Side (aka Reality)

As helpful as AI can be, it can also be annoying. Alexa, in particular can be a real “witch” from time to time.

Here is a true story: Last night, as part of the research for this column, I asked my Amazon Echo Show a simple question,  “Alexa, what can you do for me?”

Alexa replied: “I’m glad you asked. I can help with morning activities, relaxation, education, entertainment, health and fitness and more … Which would you like to explore?“

My response: “None.”

I thought the conversation would end there. Alexa continued with seven more pitches, each starting with, “I’m glad you asked. I can help with …”, then listed tasks, games and activities.

After eight (count ’em) non-stop announcements, with no sign of stopping, I became frustrated and blurted out,  “Alexa, for the love of God …”  

Within seconds, Alexa said, “Here’s ‘For the Love of God’ – by Steve Vai from Amazon Music” and began to play the 1990 song.

I won’t tell you how annoyed I was. But I will tell you that, if I ever see a real AI zombie robot, I’m going to point to Alexa and say, “Take her, please.”

George Farris is CEO of Farris Marketing. Email