4 Surprising Ways AI Is Changing How We Work With Words (and What That Means for Marketing)
Soon, Google will be able to search out that tiny portion of a podcast you want. Oh, and writers and translators will be out of a job.
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Do you remember when Siri first spoke to you? It was impressive and a little bit scary. But mostly it was entertaining. We all figured out Siri's limitations within a few minutes of messing around with her artificial intelligence (AI) functionality.
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But today, an update: We have AI like Alexa, which can deliver flowers to our spouses at work, or tell us how to say "pork belly" in Portuguese. There's also Viv, the new AI from Siri's old designers. Viv can tackle complicated questions and integrate third-party services with online businesses.
While most of us weren't paying attention, AI has been getting smarter. Learning machines are stealthily improving everything, from real-time translations to how your coffee is made. As a business owner and content marketer, I find all this intriguing: I'm always on the lookout for technology that can make my job and life easier.
So, from my observations, here are four ways AI is changing up the business world's relationship with words, and with language as we know it:
1. Smarter audio content
Let's say you know there's some juicy information in a podcast and you want to get at it. The problem is, the podcast is two hours long. You need it now. What do you do?
Had I asked you this question just a few years ago, you wouldn't have been thrilled at your choices. You would had have to play, pause and replay while manually transcribing notes. Going through a two-hour podcast would literally take you two hours.
Not anymore. We're already starting to see technology that lets you search through audio files using keywords. Castbox is one of the spoke audio apps that is making this technology a reality. It gives users the ability to scan audiobooks, on-demand radio and podcasts for topics and keywords, using natural-language processing (NLP) and machine learning.
This is going to affect marketers, search engines and transcription services in a big way. First off, podcasts will become way more viable. They're already a great way to network with potential partners and clients, build up a brand and create content. Podcasts of course are notoriously unsearchable (which is why most of them include the transcription). But AI that can search through audio will change all that.
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Podcasts may very well become one of the most popular forms of marketing because search engines will finally be able to pull up specific sections of audio and video clips, allowing you to view or listen to only the most relevant parts. This will completely revolutionize the way in which we create, experience, and curate audio-video content.
For those in the transcription industry, the implications are less positive: As natural language processing and machine learning become more robust, there will be less of a need for manual transcription. Computers will be able to do it more efficiently and cheaply.
2. Smarter language recognition
I already mentioned Viv, the next evolution of Siri. In a recent interview, a Viv analyst spoke about the sheer complexity of information Viv is capable of handling: "If you tell Viv to book a flight for a particular day," this man said, "Viv would be able to navigate the airline reservation system to book the flight, taking care to use your preferred airline, making sure your frequent flyer number is used and booking your preferred seat-- all without intervention from you. That's a big step forward for AI."
Incredible, right? Also a bit of an understatement. Having an AI assistant handle complex administrative tasks, like flight booking (or, as the analyst mentioned, finding the highest-rated pizza in the city and having it delivered right to your door), could save both businesses and individuals vast amounts of time.
Keep in mind, too, that these are just a few, very specific examples. Administrative tasks include everything from scheduling meetings (for which we have Amy) to responding to emails. If AI can effectively automate administrative tasks, the effects will be profound and far-reaching. Multiple industries will experience massive shakeups. Administrative assistants around the world will start feeling the pressure.
What does this mean for marketing? It's hard to say. In its infancy, this type of AI may actually encourage the return of keyword stuffing, which would be bad. But once AI learns how to identify relevant data more accurately, that advance may actually lead to an explosion of high-quality content.
Imagine a world in which content creators aren't constrained by SEO, and consumers can simply tell their AI to search for what they want -- and perform that search more efficiently than the consumers could ever do themselves. Our virtual assistants will be doing all our Googling for us!
3. Instant translation devices
Speaking of Google, you might remember how poor Google Translate was only a few years ago. That's because it was using direct, one-to-one translations. It was following a rulebook without paying attention to context.
Then, in 2016, some engineers at Google decided to implement machine learning with Google Translate. Almost overnight, the relevant AI was all grown up. It went from "Intro to Spanish" flunkie to cultured polyglot -- capable of dishing out "scarily good" translations.
And that was just the beginning. Around the same time, Logbar came out with a wearable device, Ili, that could translate speech in real time. The viral video the company produced wasn't exactly the best example of branding or positioning, but that didn't dampen the public's enthusiasm. This was sci-fi-level stuff, for heaven's sake.
At this point, if instant speech translation devices are adopted worldwide, the implications for international business (and pleasure) are staggering. The world may well shrink even more than it already has.
Imagine: If Joe Shmoe in Sales can fly to China and start networking at an all-Chinese mixer, will we still need human translators at all?
4. Almost-human writing
Don't feel too bad, human translators: Writers aren't very far off from sharing the same fate. Apparently, the friendly neighborhood robot writer is already here. And I'd be lying if I said this didn't scare me a little.
For a couple of years now, we've already had robot sportswriters and robot financial writers. While that's quite impressive, it's easy to see how these types of plug-and-play articles can be automated with AI. But, can robots do original research and synthesize their findings to write, say, a blog post on weight-loss tips?
Yes, they can. Consider AI Writer. With very little input, AI Writer can scour the Internet for juicy tidbits of information and assemble a structured, keyword-friendly blog post. It's so good at SEO writing that it regularly fools human clients.
For now, AI Writer and its competitors are still learning and growing, so the results are a bit of a mixed bag. According to its creators, AI Writer can write content comparable to what you'd get if you outsourced your content creation to, say, India or the Philippines. But if you're on a budget, it's not all that bad:
"It is recommended to take a regular amount of exercise before the initial stage of the weight loss process. The main goal of this exercise is to reduce the risk of heart attacks and stroke. It is also recommended that people with heart disease should consult a doctor before beginning any type of exercise program. Exercise is one of the most important things to do in the prevention of high blood pressure."
For content mills and bottom-of-the-barrel SEO writers, the writing is on the wall. For short-form content, robot writers could become much more viable in the next few years. The hurdle that AI writers will have to overcome is mimicking creative, original, long-form content. Thankfully, we're still light years away from that.
We're all going to have to adapt.
Maybe we won't see a film written, directed and animated by a robot in the next few years. But this could happen in our not-so-distant future, as well. If you can believe it, an AI has already written a "hilarious and intense" script for Sunspring.
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If the advancement of AI in the past few years has taught us anything, it's that much more can be automated than we anticipated. In the near future, this means more readily available access to information across multiple channels. People are learning more, and they're learning it faster. And that's a beautiful thing.
As for the far future? This article will have been written by a robot.