AI and the Future of the Human Experience


Jan 2024

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Tech savants have long dreamed of creating Artificial Intelligence that can engage with human beings in a way that doesn’t feel like interacting with a robot. 
In 1950, Alan Turing wondered if a machine could ever fool a human into thinking they were engaging with another human, instead of a robot. His challenge, later called the Turing Test, was to have AI interact with a person for five minutes without the person realizing they were not talking to another human.
Over the years there has been much debate over whether the Turing Test had been passed. With the rise of ChatGPT, deep fakes and other forms of modern AI, it seems the challenge has unequivocally been put to rest. It’s clear that AI has arrived. (And even beyond: at least one AI engineer believes it has become sentient.)
AI is no longer a topic limited to PhDs and futurists. It’s here. Now. And this is having a profound impact on not just technology, but the human experience.

Are you designing digital experiences for humans?

The AI breakthrough is remarkable and rightfully celebrated — but let’s look at the Turing Test again from a different angle: What does it say about the human experience if it can be replicated with binary code? What is the future for what it means to be human?
Let me assure you: this is not a call to arms, or a demand to return to a simpler time when you would take your best gal to the malt shop on a Saturday night. Nor is this the rantings of a luddite railing against the evils of technology. Far from it! But there are some things to consider as we move forward with AI and how digital experiences are created.
The heart of the matter is whether digital experiences are being used as a tool to enhance the relationship with the customer, or to replace it. No one complains about the ubiquity of 24/365 services such as banking, travel arrangements, and food delivery. But we all have experienced screaming “REPRESENTATIVE” into the phone while trying to resolve an issue through a call center.

How to start loving AI

By now we’ve all read enough AI-generated content and seen enough strangely-fingered AI-generated images to realize that the threat was largely overblown. These are aggregators, derivative by their very nature. That’s the beauty of creative destruction: replace the old, worn-out, no longer useful way of doing things when they no longer create value. (Philosophical aside: If a non-very-smart AI can take your job, maybe you should let it?)

Here’s the thing savvy CMOs and nervous marketers should keep in mind: good marketing is more than just voracious data mining and regurgitated clickbait. A good marketer knows that your job is to understand, connect with, and ultimately sell to people. It’s to dig into the lived, human experience of your customers, to feel their pain and frustrations, to see what your brand can do to spark joy or make their life just that little bit better.

Good marketing — as we here at Ex Squared have said over and over — is about empathy.

And while AI doesn’t understand what it is to BE a human, it CAN make your marketing a lot easier.

Tools make work easier and teams more productive

In an article in Forbes for their Business Council series, AI brand strategist Grant McDougall makes a clear case for how AI can be used to boost efficiency and further your marketing goals — while reassuring marketers that their value to the role can’t be replaced.

McDougall points out that “AI has permanently transformed digital marketing” and accepts the new reality that “integrating AI-powered software, such as predictive analytics […] has become table stakes for remaining competitive.” But he is careful to distinguish where AI’s primary strengths lie: in capturing and taming the “world of torrential data flows that outstrip our limited human ability to comprehend.”

In our era of Big Data, information has become so prevalent, so voluminous, it has simply swamped our human brain-computers. We are awash in facts and information: our challenge is wrangling this unruly mass of information and extracting the sweet nuggets of actionable wisdom.

While AI might not fully get humans, it’s great with numbers and data, at speeds we humans can only dream of.

What’s more, McDougall points out in his piece, not only is this exactly the kind of task AI was designed to excel at, but AI systems actually “grow smarter the more data they ingest.” Instead of getting overwhelmed by data, they thrive on it. Talk about a symbiotic relationship!

It’s a smart piece, and worth the read. And happily it ends on a reassuring note: “To truly connect with customers, though, you’ll still need human perspective.”

In other words, let the machines handle the repetitive, tedious, number-crunching mechanical parts of the job. Save that precious human gray-matter goo for the things only it can do: being human.

Digital experiences need to make the user feel more human, not less 

If you are a business, do you want to create a one-time experience with your user? Or a barely-good-enough experience? Or do you want a deep and meaningful (read as: profitable) relationship that takes place over a long period of time? (Hint: you want the latter.)
And creating these types of relationships moving forward is going to require a deeper understanding of who your customers really are. This will require empathy. Deep, deep empathy.

A Turing Test for the 21st Century

Maybe it’s time for a new Turing test, one focused on emotion and empathy: Not only do users need to feel they’re having an above-the-neck conversation with a human being, they need to feel a below the neck, “gut” connection. 
It might be this is something only human beings can offer, or it might be something AI can help with until the humans can step in (think: overworked and understaffed customer service). It’s definitely important enough for customer engagement that you shouldn’t settle for less. 
At EX Squared we privilege human contact, insight and ideas. We’re all for using the latest technology —  in service of people. 
If you want help creating meaningful digital experiences that have empathy at their core, give us a shout. We just happen to know a guy who can help.

EX Squared is a creative technology agency that creates digital products for real human beings.