How AI makes us more human – by UM’s Melissa Moubarak

Melissa Moubarak is strategy and data director at UM MENA

Data. If you’re like 68 per cent of marketers (according to McKinsey), this simple, short word probably just sent a chill down your spine .

That’s because while 78 per cent of marketers profess the importance of data in improving their business and fuelling their decision making, the majority are struggling. Facing a deluge of data points, with no guidance on how to structure, analyse or make sense of it. Then there are those who dread the day data will power enough artificial intelligence (AI) for robots to take over our jobs. They bemoan the future of a creative industry already hijacked by number crunchers and sapped of its  right-brained character.

But here’s an unpopular opinion: becoming more left-brained can actually make you a better marketer. You see, problem solving requires two steps. First, gathering all the information together and breaking it apart into bits and pieces for analysis. Then, putting it all back together into a recommended solution.

In today’s data-heavy world, sifting through all the noise in a methodical and robust way is a waste of time and practically impossible for humans. That’s where AI can deliver potent use cases. Powered by the right data, AI is incredible at collecting information related to a problem, then dissecting that into manageable pieces for analysis. It’s how you would be able to capture binge watching habits of Netflix users and cluster them by time of day and type of show. It’s how you would cluster fast-food ordering behaviour based on the immense datasets from food delivery apps, call centres and third-party providers.

Sure, we’ve done quite well in marketing before all of that data. But shying away from it today, through a lack of knowledge or just denial, would be to foolishly toss away a wealth of insight. Insight, however, is where AI fails.

The second step of problem solving, putting nuggets of information back together to arrive to a solution, is where AI stumbles. The problem is, AI has no moral compass, empathy, understanding or flexibility. It can do what it’s told, but cannot comprehend whether it’s the right thing to do. It will spew out results based on mathematical models with no regard to ethics, social context or fair judgement. It’s why AI has been plagued with racial bias issues in recruitment, or incorrect diagnoses for cancer patients. Luckily, there’s another, far more dominant tool for the task of taking pieces of imperfect data and connecting them together into a meaningful solution: the human brain.

Human creativity has brought us this far, and human creativity will take us even further. But this time we have a powerful ally. If we embrace data and AI to conduct complex analysis tasks, then use human intelligence to synthesise that analysis into meaningful conclusions, we will have achieved a symbiotic relationship between man and machine called humanistic intelligence.

We’re not talking just yet about becoming humanoid cyborgs fitted with computer chips as Elon Musk’s Neuralink brain implants promise. Or even bionic eyes like Steve Mann’s EyeTap. Still, we need to evolve the profile of a typical marketer today if we are to achieve humanistic intelligence. This mainly revolves around upskilling marketers on data literacy. It revolves around developing a new breed of experts with a hyperactive right brain to think creatively about problems, and a fired-up left brain to unlock the potential of data for better decision making.

By becoming more data literate, marketers could start spotting trends. AI could highlight key peaks that deserve further analysis, and the marketers would spend their time asking the important question: Why?

Marketers can learn to read in the data truly incredible stories about human behaviour, igniting more creative work. Become data-literate by learning the skills to study data sets, analyse their trends, spot their outliers and visualise their patterns. You will feel so much more comfortable in a world where we are surrounded by it and it will empower you like never before. Working with AI to crunch the numbers allows us the space to do what humans do best: think. Think critically, strategically and (most humanly) empathetically. That’s when we will reach the ultimate state of humanistic intelligence.