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Humanizing the Approach to Artificial Intelligence

By Tom Butler



Professionals everywhere can hear the footsteps -or perhaps the droning “beeps” - of Artificial Intelligence (AI) creeping up behind them.  IBM is but one of many AI industry players, and this week Big Blue debuted its Project Debater.  The machine went head to head with two human debate champions and won some bit of credibility.


According to Bloomberg News: “During the debate at IBM’s offices in San Francisco, the robot spoke clearly, used correct grammar, generated relevant points and responded to arguments its human opponents made.”  The machine actually changed the minds of nine members of the studio audience on the topic of telemedicine. 


As any of my communications industry clients might tell you, our team loves the art of debate.  As a PR pro working significantly with journalists and stakeholders of all types, spotlighting our client’s side of a discussion or fight depends upon us carefully delivering persuasive reasoning and facts. Never take for granted that an audience understand your point of view.  Educate and reeducate them until victory is in hand. 

How long before debate bots are substituted for political candidates in a presidential, U.S. Senate or gubernatorial election?

The very landscape of debate as we know it may soon shift: How long before debate bots are substituted for political candidates in a presidential, U.S. Senate or gubernatorial election?  Would rules and strategies shift if one’s opponent lacks the emotional component of argument that humans often put front and center? Would this put people at a disadvantage? Would it change the way we interact with our audiences?


Or what about when companies or entire industries cede their communications strategies to the bots? Given modern political rancor and accusations of ‘fake news,” perhaps AI might be welcomed sooner rather than later.


Maybe none of us is immune to replacement by our automated counterparts, which neither ask for vacation days nor lobby for summer Fridays.


While some may conjure up a science fiction future where machines rule man, think instead about the great opportunity, to financial industry or communications pros who labor weeks or months researching, developing and testing concepts that become winning campaigns. 

Just as Windows software helped revolutionize business innovation and supercharged entrepreneurism, AI has amazing potential to radically transform the way we work in the coming years, if only we integrate, embrace and balance it with a professional human touch.


Tom Butler is President and founder of Butler Associates LLC, an award winning public relations and communications firm with offices in New York City and Stamford, Ct.



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