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Promethean moment? Apocalypse? The latest over-hype? Sue Mizera reflects on the ever-changing tech landscape and if these new developments are a scifi dream, dystopian nightmare, or the latest bandwagon. Part I. 

Before turning to marketing, we have to spend a minute on the current moment that is AI: spotlight on ChatGPT

For Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive reportedly not known for overstatement, the new tech landscape moment is Promethean: “AI is probably the most important thing humanity has ever worked on, more profound than electricity or fire.” 

For the Opinion Columnist Thomas Friedman, witnessing a demonstration of ChatGPT4 for the first time, the experience recalled “the invention of the printing press, the scientific, agricultural, industrial and nuclear power revolutions combined, plus personal computing and the internet.” He cited the science fiction writer Arthur Clarke: “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” 

For the small, elite group of people actually creating AI, it is a different story: there is little consensus about AI among them, although most agree they’re not sure what they’re creating. In a recent survey of this group, a full 10% said they believe they may be working towards a system that can eliminate humanity. Elsewhere, their work has been likened to “summoning”, as if they are witches stirring a brew, from which gods, or perhaps devils, probably both, will emerge. Others wonder if AI is just cryptocurrency and bitcoin all over again. How about those self-driving cars, Mr. Musk! How about that metaverse, Mr. Zuckerberg!  “Hey Siri, set the alarm for 5:15.”

Factually, there’s just so much we don’t know. Does AI think? Maybe. Gary Marcus says this is impossible, given AI’s “limited” base in neural networks; others wonder if AI isn’t so different from how our brains actually work, as a lot of human reasoning similarly recognises patterns and predicts what comes next. 

Does AI desire and yearn? Can it develop a personality? Probably. Recall the recent Kevin Roose incident that resulted in Bing’s Sydney being requisitioned.

Will it ever discern truth from falsity? Not currently, but theoretically, yes, with new cognitive developments, hybrid systems, and greater integration with other systems. (The more data we have, the more diverse the sources, the better the model becomes; and the more emergent behaviours develop, e.g., its learning how to code –which still mystifies researchers.) Will it be useful only in some narrow domains, e.g., computer programming, rhymes for light verse, according to the eminence grise, Noam Chomsky

Or will it solve some of the most wicked problems in science at a speed and scope worthy of Nobel Prizes, e.g., it’s already predicting the 3D shapes of proteins using only their amino acid sequences. 

Eventually, could AI systems be hacked, causing wild disruptions in businesses, countries, financial and energy systems? A terrifying possibility. Will it change things — life, work, leisure, study, companionship and relationships, as we know them? Almost certainly. Take the simplest example — as ChatGPT can integrate with other systems, like TaskRabbit, we reportedly can all soon have personal assistants to handle our correspondence, make our appointments, maybe even do our taxes. 

And it’s all happening at lightning speed, not just the seconds it takes to produce content; advances to whole AI systems are being rolled out onto the market, exceeding even insider expectations. ChatGPT4, already in beta testing as of 1Q 2023 and taking waiting lists, starts to reveal how today’s systems are, at best, clumsy beginners. As of end-March, 2023, over 1000 technology leaders urged AI labs to pause development of the most advanced systems (nothing beyond GPT4), warning in an open letter that AI tools present “profound risks to society and humanity.” 

It is the moment we are in.

How will ChatGPT impact B2B , plus and minus?

Putting aside all the uncertainty of what we don’t yet know or fully understand about AI and Chat GPT, let’s make an abrupt turn and go straightaway to marketing. What changes might AI and ChatGPT, of whatever number, bring to B2B marketing, itself a quickly advancing discipline, ever-changing and always expanding? What plusses and minuses for the function as a whole might ChatGPT bring in the short to near- and longer-term?  

Let’s make the exercise personal, marketer. Isn’t it likely that ChatGPT will impact the full range of your daily responsibilities, from content-creation to interfacing with the tech stack, brand management, CX, interfacing with your management team, and managing your agency partners? We are necessarily in “best-guess” territory and predictions are almost always wrong; still, there is no time like the present to put some stakes in the ground, even as it’s shifting. I am reminded that for everyone who says “man plans and god laughs,” there is the counter-balancing maxim, “there is nothing so practical as a good theory.” Fore-warned, fore-armed, is hard to argue with. 

Short-term (1-3 years): Many plusses, some cautions, for the B2B marketer

I’ll begin by turning over some cards and revealing our hand: we’re reasonably optimistic about the benefits that AI has to offer marketers. Given the multiple problems that AI can likely solve, potentially bringing multiple costs down with it (costs not yet clear), we believe AI and ChatGPT offer a genuinely “winning formula,” at least in the short-term; so we see them moving in, probably here to stay. But as ever, it is important to keep eyes wide open and not fall for hype. The really important question is: 

What do you think, B2B marketer?

Check out part II here, and part III here.

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