Watch for the Cons of Digital Marketing With AI & Take a Lesson from Rod Serling’s Uncle Simon

Tiger Talks

Tiger Tip No. 2:
Watch for the Cons of Digital Marketing With AI & Take a Lesson from Rod Serling’s Uncle Simon

Use of AI in Digital Marketing

In the 21st century, the use of artificial intelligence (AI) is growing to replace people who perform repetitive tasks. As this change occurs, communications specialists must consider the ethics of using artificial intelligence in the digital marketing space as a civic and professional duty. Like any tool, whether it is good or bad depends on how you use it.

In many ways, AI helps streamline systematic processes, like building media lists and scheduling pitches, but anyone who works with journalists can tell you – it’s all about the human touch. And it’s about judgment – that which can’t be replaced by AI – knowing when to pitch, whom to pitch, how to pitch, what to pitch, and so on. That’s good old-fashioned humans at work. However, it sure would help to have AI do some repetitive tasks to save hours of time.

Ethics of AI in Digital Marketing

It is important to explore ethical considerations before acting in business or any pursuit in life. The question of whether or not you should do something is the concern of ethics. In digital marketing and communications, technology must not get too far ahead of human understanding or control of it because there are always unintended consequences.

Should AI evolve unchecked? If so, can you live with the unintended consequences?

On the surface, it would seem to be an age-old concern: society evolves, people get nervous because something important and significant changes their lives, and they question it. In time, they learn to embrace the new when they learn it’s safe, as human evolution and techne are primal needs and instincts. The problem arises when humans embrace techne too soon.

Technology is evolving at a faster rate than humans, who must evolve along with it. However, in many ways, humans seem fairly devolved so primitive biases and tendencies find their way into the technology people develop and use. Ethics controls for that. Some companies have ethics and some don’t. Be aware of this as you consider using AI.

Rod Serling addresses the strife between humans and AI in many episodes of his critically acclaimed television series, The Twilight Zone. An analysis of one relevant episode follows after considering the cons to lay the framework.

Cons of AI in Digital Marketing

The use of AI in every sector and industry is nothing new at this point in human development. The business sector has used AI since the rise of “big data” in the 90s and 00s, which is the age of data collection at a rate too high for people to process. With this comes new concerns, like the invasion of privacy and informed consent, and psychological issues related to addiction and self-image. AI promotes bias, groupthink, and stereotypes, to name a few of its shortcomings. People can’t process information and emotions at the rate they receive them.

AI software is programmed with algorithms designed by humans. All humans have biases, according to social scientists. Therefore, the human or small group of humans programming the technology ingrain their biases into the system.

For example, an AI application for job recruitment called GROW put a glass ceiling on candidates through its software – not on purpose, but due to latent biases from the designer and clients as they misapplied it.

The problem with GROW is that it uses an algorithm to learn about a user’s personality and performance on tasks and tests that are deemed important to employers, without having the research to back up employer use of these traits.

Over time, GROW used the references and connections of people using the platform to recruit the peers of candidates who used the system and were screened as good prospects. By doing this and focusing on a small population of college students, GROW cultivated and rewarded certain character traits in people and penalized other, undesirable personality traits.

A lot of major companies use GROW and continue to use it to this day. Many misuse GROW in their screening process while others use it to screen in candidates – a positive. It’s not all negative, thankfully, and AI can have its uses, but these are some of the cons – stereotyping and discrimination.

As you embrace AI’s use in your media or marketing business, you must ask a few fundamental questions about the ethics of AI in digital marketing, such as:

  • Is it right or wrong to use AI in digital marketing? In what ways do you plan to use it?
  • What are the long-term consequences of certain AI technologies in the digital marketing space and what will be your digital footprint?
  • Is the AI you’re using helping or harming society according to your definition of the greater good?

What’s the answer to these questions? Who knows!

The challenge with ethics is that it’s entirely personal. At Tigereye, systematizing the very thing that we, as a society, worked to undo is unsettling, and that is ending discrimination in the workplace. Misuse of AI risks reversing decades of progress. However, using AI to streamline systematic tasks seems promising.

If you use AI, be careful. Your private client and personal information can get hacked if you’re not cautious, or the AI itself can get jacked and used to prank or gaslight you. Be careful if using any AI features that overwrite a human’s ability to stop the AI from any task through a “kill switch” of sorts.

Case in Point: Uncle Simon

Opening Narration

Dramatis personae: Mr. Simon Polk, a gentleman who has lived out his life in a gleeful rage; and the young lady who’s just beat the hasty retreat is Mr. Polk’s niece, Barbara.  She has lived her life as if during each ensuing hour she had a dentist appointment. There is yet a third member of the company soon to be seen. He now resides in the laboratory and he is the kind of character to be found only in the Twilight Zone.

Barbara confronts Simon the Robot

“Robby the Robot” in The Twilight Zone
Image: IMBD

In an episode of Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone television series called Uncle Simon, Simon Polk is an ailing, sadistic scientist who derives great pleasure from causing other people’s emotional pain. His niece, Barbara, has been taking care of him for 25 long and painful years as his only heir. She stays because she wants his inheritance.

Simon invented a robot that he hides in his laboratory and keeps secret from Barbara. When Simon slips and falls after an altercation between the two, Simon dies and his niece inherits his estate under the condition that she watch after his science projects, with one in particular mentioned as needing “special care.”

Barbara finally learns what’s in the lab – a robot Simon named after himself that he designed to learn from its environment – AI. The robot had latently picked up on Simon’s negative behaviors and those behaviors become gradually expressed in the robot until it acts and talks exactly like Simon, insults and all. If only Barbara had the kill switch, but the AI was programmed to take over. She even knocked the robot down to kill it, but it just hobbled around, insulting her.

Robby the Robot and Barbara

Constance Ford and Robby the Robot in The Twilight Zone
Image: IMBD

Similar to how the robot uses latent code it stored from Simon, the scientist, people program their own biases into AI algorithms that cause the AI to learn those biases and perpetuate them as it collects more data. Most don’t do it on purpose, though, as Simon has done. In GROW, the employers introduced bias when they added “client-defined characteristics” in search of “ideal” candidates, and it was likely unintentional. However, don’t let your insatiable desire to grow and expand your business’s capacity through AI cost you in the adverse effects it may bring long-term – case in point, Uncle Simon.

Closing Narration

Dramatis personae, a metal man who’ll go by the name of Simon, whose life as well as his body has been stamped out for him; and the woman who tends to him, the lady Barbara, who’s discovered belatedly that all bad things don’t come to an end, and that once a bed is made, it’s quite necessary that you sleep in it. Tonight’s uncomfortable little exercise in avarice and automatons, from the Twilight Zone.