Artificial Intelligence in Events

A child walks into class and states they believe the earth is flat. What should the teacher do?

Most people would surely think the teacher should engage in a conversation with the child providing counter-arguments, views and evidence and hope to persuade the child their opinion was incorrect.

They wouldn’t think an appropriate response would be to point the child towards the Flat Earth Society’s website.

However, that is exactly how current algorithms and Artificial Intelligence ‘help’ us on Facebook, Twitter, Netflix and a multitude of other sites. They identify our opinions and expose us to more of the same. It means we stay happy in our echo chambers and surround ourselves in the virtual world with things and people that think like we do. It effectively polarises opinions and confirms our views, however misinformed they might be. Why?

Algorithms are there to sell us something

Because most of the algorithms we are exposed to are there either to sell us something or to package up our own views and sell them on to someone else. They are not there to help us develop or learn.

Events however are about development and learning. Current AI seems to be more about finding you a better widget or pointing you towards someone who has similar interests to you. I would say that if you go to a conference just to confirm what you already know and to surround yourself with people who have the same opinions as you, then don’t waste your time. I think you should go to conferences to be exposed to different points of view, perspectives and experiences.

Life is not black and white, or to put it into the digital age, it’s rarely about binary choices. Complex problems don’t normally have simple answers. And that is why I have a problem with ‘Artificial Intelligence’ at events. People seem to think it is going to be a magic way to make them better, more targeted and therefore more successful. It isn’t.

AI is really good at finding patterns. But if you really look for a pattern that isn’t there, you’ll probably find it. Analysis of our Pay per Click account once reported that since no leads had ever been generated on the 12th of any month in the last two years we should turn off our ads on that day every month. Because no one ever searches for Event Technology on the 12th of the month, do they?

A.I. in Events should replace processes, not thought

AI might point towards areas that are worth exploring, but it should be advisory, not definitive. The amount of data at even large events means that any results or conclusions still need the eye and mind of the Event Professional to give them the context they need. Fortunately experience and common sense cannot be replaced by technology – yet…

Facebook’s AI translation system recently managed to get an innocent Palestinian construction worker arrested and interrogated by Israeli police. He posted a picture of himself next to his bulldozer with the words ‘Good morning’ in Arabic. Artificial ‘intelligence’ translated this into Hebrew as ‘Attack now’ resulting in a bit of an ordeal for him until someone who actually spoke Arabic looked at the original post…

So let’s see technology as a labour and/or time-saving device, let’s not blindly follow any recommendations it suggests. We should use it to make our events more personal, not more robotic.

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