Artificial Intelligence

Can artificial intelligence revolutionize marketing? It’s already starting to. SFU Beedie BBA alumnus Parry Malm helms digital marketing company Phrasee, which uses artificial intelligence to write copy for some of the world’s biggest brands.

Artificial intelligence is changing the job market, Parry says. In the not-so-distant future it will be used in ways we can’t yet imagine. Watch as he explains what sort of impact it will make.

Parry Malm

Q&A WITH PARRY

Can you explain what Artificial Intelligence (AI) is and why it is important?

What is effectively happening now is quite similar to the industrial revolution in the Victorian period, and AI is one of these foundational technologies that have really come to the forefront due to increased sets of data and increased computing power. What it is going to do is affect us in every guise of our lives.

For a long time, humans have done tasks that we perhaps megalomaniacally view as quintessentially human, but they aren't. So who would have thought a few years ago that you could actually have a car that drives itself? Who would have thought that you could have an x-ray of a lung scanned, and detect cancer with a higher probability than the most accomplished doctors in the world can do with their own eyes?

When comparing human intelligence with artificial intelligence, one of the big downsides of relying upon humans to make difficult choices is that they inject their own bias into the equation. So it's your thoughts, your beliefs, your cultural mores, which then affect decisions which are made on a human level. The great thing about AI, when it's applied piously, is that you don't have this inherent bias and you can make decisions based upon pattern matching that's not only invisible to the human eye, but devoid of these cognitive biases that lead to bad decision-making.

How will AI change the world of business?

AI is absolutely going to change the job market. It's going to destroy a lot of jobs—good jobs that people have had for a long time. But it's not actually a bad thing because, while some jobs will be destroyed, new jobs will be created. So a great example here is with Phrasee; we're over 30 people now and the jobs which people are doing are a direct result of our application of AI. These are jobs that didn't exist two years ago, so we're going to see business models evolve as the technology advances. Sure, some jobs are going to go away, but there's going to be more, better and different jobs in the pipe.

What do you see as the future for AI?

A lot of people these days, with the buzz around AI, will come into their boardroom and go, “Hey we need to start doing AI.” This is the wrong approach. What you should do instead is define your problem. Spend all your time defining what your problem is and then determine whether or not AI is an appropriate approach. So at Phrasee we actually discovered that there is a business need to use better language in online marketing campaigns and, out of many options, we decided that AI was an appropriate approach.

In the next few years we're going to start seeing use cases of AI that people have never thought of. You're also going to see a whole bunch of use cases that are absolutely pointless and the ones which will stand the test of time are the ones that solved one problem and solved that problem really, really, really well.

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