I now pronounce you Man + Machine


The day you stop learning is the day life is over. The pendulum has been swinging between the world of high performing academia as the perfect specimen of intelligence, to a world where artificial intelligence is destined to reign supreme. A world where no amount of parchments could ever compete with Deep Blue or HAL.

Well, my pendulum has now landed firmly somewhere closer to man + machine rather than man vs machine. Where we use the power of human intelligence and amplify it with technology. If we take it back to media and media/marketing research, human intelligence working in a silo can be riddled with bias and problems with scale, while artificial intelligence working in a silo doesn’t take into account the nuances of marketing science. Each on its own has limitations.

While Marvin Minsky’s man vs machine has had far more air time, man + machine offers a scenario where humans still own the central role in directing machine intelligence. In 1960, J.C.R. Licklider called it “Man-Machine Symbiosis”. More recently, Douglas Griffith and Frank Greitzer called it “Neo-Symbiosis”. Others call it Intelligence Amplification.

Using man + machine to amplify intelligence is our happy space. Amplified intelligence uses the strengths of each – people and tech – to push the boundaries of what we can achieve. Like all team efforts, for this to work well we have to be a little bit grown-up about identifying and accepting the limitations of each. Tech on its own can’t make creative connections or allow for human idiosyncrasies. Humans have problems with bias and scale.

Marketing intelligence sits in a peculiar place between science and behavioural (people-centred) focus. It has for decades. Marketing science tests its theories against empirical laws of science. Many other marketing disciplines focus solely on a behavioural approach.

Our vision for future research design is to expand the scale and remove the human bias using leading-edge AI tech to answer the people-centred question of how brands grow. We (humans) drive the research question which is asked of us by a client (also human). They are usually trying to persuade humans or sell to humans. BUT in our tool box is some serious tech that can collect and analyse data at a scale that we’ve never been able to do before.

While that’s an incredibly exciting space to be in, we need to remember that even tech solutions in research can bias without linking them to evidence-based marketing. With AI, we can dig deeper and more objectively into a giant pool of information. We can collect and analyse visual data like never before, but it is still up to us (humans) to make it meaningful.

It turns out that people are behind the consumption economy on this planet, so we must factor them in to our AI marketing frontiers. Tech for tech’s sake just doesn’t cut it. It’s not delivering real and useful results that can be applied in a world full of people.

Amplifying our intelligence by augmenting man + machine learning blows the lid off our capacity to address complex people-centred research questions. Now that’s exciting (it’s a human thing).

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