Editor’s note: Alexander Ferguson, CEO of YourLocalStudio.com, continues his Uptech series about Artificial Intelligence, in an interview with echnologist and digital marketing thought leader William Ammerman, author of the recently published “The Invisible Brand: Marketing in the Age of Automation, Big Data, and Machine Learning.” 

In the continuation of our conversation from last week with Technologist William Ammerman, we explore how modern digital marketing is changing the way people are persuaded.


The interview:

  • Your findings have startling implications for society. Some say, “the more significant developments in technological engagement are years away.”

We’re already at a point where we are empathetically relating to our devices, and by empathetically relating to our devices, we are opening ourselves up to persuasion at a very deep level.

Studies have shown that the more human-like a relationship with a device is, the more empathetic we are and the more vulnerable we are to persuasion. You have to start pondering: What does it mean that we’re all talking to our devices; that we’re asking these devices questions?

Today, it’s something simple like, you know, “show me a scary movie,” and your TV providing a recommendation.

But tomorrow, it’s going to be more serious questions. It’s going to be questions about, you know, “What should I study in college? What job should I take? Who should I date? Who should I marry? What kind of car should I buy? What kind of house should I buy? What loan should I, you know, procure?”

And when we are asking those kinds of questions, we’re going to be opening ourselves up to a much deeper level of persuasion. And we need to start being savvy to the voices that are answering back through these devices.

Because the voices that are answering us are answering us for reasons. There’s motives behind that. And so, we have to start being discerning about the voices that we’re listening to through the voice user interface.

  • But it’s not merely the way in which we’re engaging with technology on an emotional level; it’s how people are using that engagement to manipulate us. Ammerman warns us that potential for abuse is profound.

What happens when the news is being written by an algorithm that’s owned by the same people who are harnessing that algorithmic information to make stock trades?

What is the possibility for manipulation of the economy by writing algorithmic news stories that manipulate stock trading?

  • So how do we protect ourselves in the modern era of digital marketing? Ammerman suggests that living in a world of artificial intelligence requires real knowledge.

The answer to so many questions about how do we protect ourselves is that we have to understand the technology; we have to be able to talk about it; we have to understand terms like algorithms; we have to understand terms about, you know, natural language processing.

How is Artificial Intelligence transforming digital marketing? UpTech finds out

We have to really understand how they work and what’s happening. And we have to understand how pervasive this is. This isn’t 10 years from now; this is already.

  • Ammerman considers the role of people in a world dominated by artificial intelligence. We could have a scenario in which our digital personal assistants, such as Google Duplex, are having conversations with the AI bots used by businesses.

And we’re there. We’ve reached the point where my machine is talking to your machine to schedule my, and in the case of the Google example that you’re referring to: I think it was making reservations at a hair salon. So, you know, at the point where we’ve figured out how to make that reservation.

The business owner is going to figure out, “Wait, I can just be having a Google, you know, voice assistant on my end scheduling it.” So, the person calling’s a robot, the person answering’s a robot, and we’re left with a much more convenient, you know, alternative to sitting on hold for 10 minutes.

In our next video, we conclude our conversation with William Ammerman, who helps us develop a better understanding of the technologies being used to engage and persuade.