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Marketing is an exercise in empathy. In order to create a message that rings true, it helps to feel what your audience feels and think what they think. Ultimately, these are major steps toward earning their trust.

That has never been an easy task, but current tech trends have made it more of a challenge. While it’s easier to reach audiences, it’s increasingly difficult to connect with them. From emails to text messages to social networks to dating apps, our interactions with other human beings are often routed through machines. And as a middle man, technology can both enable and isolate us from human interaction.

Those feelings of isolation may grow in the coming years, as powerful forms of automation, artificial intelligence and machine learning become commonplace. The next phase of technological innovation is destined to replace many forms of human input, opportunity and interaction. For marketers that represent the companies at the forefront of this technological transformation, earning the audience’s trust will be more important – and more difficult -- than ever.

This blog series will address three of the most disruptive trends on the horizon:

  • AI, machine learning and autonomous driving
  • The rising value of personal data
  • The proliferation of blockchain technology used in cryptocurrency

The goal is to offer insight on how audiences may be influenced by each of these complex concepts.

AI, machine learning and autonomous driving

Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are two terms that are often used interchangeably, but there is an important distinction. Machine learning is an application of AI in which a system is taught basic rules. Then, it is left to learn on its own. The machine learns how to best complete a task through repetitive scenario analysis.

As the speed and availability of compute cycles increases, the viability of machine learning to optimize tasks becomes more palatable and useful. Services can be accomplished automatically by a computer, even those that have traditionally required human focus and input.

However, machine learning won’t necessarily be immune to human error. A machine can repeat certain negative human behaviors, such as prejudice and favoritism, if that behavior is modeled in the sample data used to inform optimal outcomes. Those behaviors can become “hard-coded” into the machine’s learning process.

Audiences are already wary of automated systems due to the lack of direct control, as well as safety and quality concerns. Institutional bias could be an unwelcome addition to that list.

Likewise, we need to understand the life-or-death decisions we are putting in the hands of those who create autonomous-driving systems and software. Consider The Trolley Problem. This mental exercise shows the moral judgments that autonomous vehicles -- and those who program them -- will need to make. As marketers, we must be vigilant in confirming our clients and their products represent more than just the most financially viable options. We must consider the ethical implications, as well.

We must also consider the trickle-down effects that impact industries traditionally supported by human drivers. Imagine how hotels, gas stations, auto maintenance, truck stops, vehicle rentals, public transportation, and several other industries could be impacted. We must consider which audiences will be affected by these changes. We need to affirm that the human elements of service aren’t entirely lost in this shift to automation.

Trust and fear can’t exist together. As trust continues to wane, fear of automation will seep into our audiences. As communicators, it’s our role to explain, acknowledge and empathize with audiences about the risks inherent in these new realities.

For more insights on how to shape your communications within the changing technology landscape, watch for parts two and three of our series over on our blog. If you’d like to speak to someone about how Airfoil can help you create trust with your audience, connect with us here.

If you're interested in reading more, check out these additional articles and resources for further study on this topic.