articleDigital Shoreditch
The Singularity Is Coming!

Some day very soon, artificial intelligence (A.I.) will reach a point where it is equal to human intelligence. And while that might sound like the premise for a particularly depressing apocalyptic scenario, the truth is that A.I. has the potential to be a highly useful tool, even partner of sorts, in business.

So where does it all start? With a story.

Tales imitating technology

“Pop culture is a way of exploring our homes, fears and dreams,” says Jenny Howard from the Sunshine agency. This is especially true when it comes to concerns regarding the increasing role of technology in our lives, with ‘cautionary tales’ like Charlie Brooker’s dystopian drama Black Mirror and ultra-modern love stories like Her. And just as science fiction has inspired innovation in the tech industry (the iPad and Apple Watch will come as nothing new to fans of Star Trek or Inspector Gadget), now ‘design fiction’ explores new ideas through storytelling and prototypes.

Simulations can predict likely scenarios

Plato was talking about simulations thousands of years ago in his Allegory of the Cave. We’re still obsessed with depictions of our world in 2015, only now we have the technology to create computer-generated simulations which are near-indistinguishable from real footage. While this is a boon to the gaming industry, Andy Fawkes from Thinke Company sees simulations as a “unifying medium” which can transform training and development across any number of sectors, including A.I., virtual reality, wearables, and engineering.

Beyond merely casting hi-tech shadows on a wall, simulations enable us to predict outcomes with increasing efficacy. At present, Google simulates the traffic we’re likely to experience on our Monday morning – how soon before we are able to accurately simulate movements in the stock market, or a natural disaster?

A.I. is the pretender to the creative thron

BO_AI Bo Hellberg from D&AD.

Human intelligence is perceived as intuitive, poetic, and often unpredictable, compared to artificial intelligence, which we see as rational, pragmatic, and calculated. However, those distinctions have been blurring ever since the Nineties, when an A.I. called Deep Blue beat reigning chess champion Kasparov by playing random, risky, ‘human’ moves.

“Artificial neurons are a million times faster than their biological counterparts,” says Bo Hellberg, a trainer at D&AD. And while machines only understand about 25 percent of natural language at the moment, that will not be the case for long. There are already robots which exist to tell plausible short stories (Scheherazade), automate fictional ‘what if?’ ideas (Whim Project) and even compete in game shows (Watson). Can a ‘creative director bot’ be far off?

It took Salvador Dali a lifetime to reach his creative peak, says Hellberg. What if a newborn had that level of creativity from day one? Don’t worry, agency people – these inventions cost even more than you do, so your jobs are safe (for now). Hellberg urges marketers to see A.I. “not as a replacement, but as a partner in the creative process.”

On 6 August 1994 Tim Berners-Lee published the first web page and kick-started the Information Age. As the world heads towards the next great tech revolution of Artificial Intelligence, what does this mean for the human race? Hear the man who invented the web explain what will happen when his invention ‘wakes up’. We’ll find out on his Cannes Lions session on Tuesday, the 23rd. Stay tuned for highlights on ogilvydo.


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