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Are We Training AI or is it Training Us?

Question: What future have you agreed to help create?

We’ve made a grave mistake. We’ve agreed to play along. And by doing so, we’ve chosen to be complicit in the future that is unfolding before our eyes.

If you are completely content with everything that has defined the past 18 months or so, you are welcome to stop reading and continue riding your wave of contentment or apathy. What follows isn’t for you.

But, if you have an unsettling feeling that something is most definitely off, I invite you to read on.

Are We Training AI or is it Training Us?

Is it just me or have you noticed that we race through our days connected to, reliant upon, and comforted by the consistent, dull hum of our omnipresent devices? That’s a rhetorical question, of course. Our technology vessels have become the lifeblood of our work, leisure, and social connections. They wake us up in the morning, teach us, train us, assist us, and entertain us. They are our ever-present helpers. We can’t imagine our lives before them or without them.

The applications they contain provide us with everything we need: exercise, shopping, calm, and connection to everyone and anyone. They know all about us and they provide us access to everything we could possibly want.

Their screens fill our eyes with exactly what we want to see and they tell us in earnest what we want to hear.

We watch and we listen as the stories of our lives are crafted for us and conveyed to us many megabytes at a time. It’s comfortable and easy to accept these curated narratives because we are storytellers, after all. It’s how we make sense of the world.

Occasionally, our external brains bring us stories that we struggle to comprehend. Where we look for information, we find dueling propaganda. Authenticity is so filtered the only worth we find in it is the hashtag that proceeds the word. When the disconnect becomes uncomfortable we boost the signal that confirms our biases and click away from or attack what doesn’t fit the prescribed picture, exactly as the AI has taught us to.

If we break away long enough we might describe what we are sensing to be true. We are connected but we aren’t communicating. We exist in the same location but in completely different worlds. On occasion we complain, fear, shriek, or shake our fists. But, in essence, we DO nothing.

What can we do?

It’s happening — whatever “it” is — and we are being pulled along, desperately trying to hold on, and stay on our feet.

You see, when you’re racing into the volatile chaos of the unknown, outrage is futile.

It’s a reaction. It’s not a solution.

To that point, neither is virtuous vengeance or choosing to wear a blissful blindfold and stumble along behind.

Just Because They Can

Technology is moving everything at an almost incomprehensible speed. I know you are aware of this. At least you think you are. But, it’s truly beyond what we are able to grasp. Read The Future is Faster Than You Think and you’ll see what I mean.

It’s a fascinating book that allows the reader to peer into what is currently being developed that will soon impact our daily lives. The authors describe the advances with almost giddy enthusiasm. You may think you have a pretty good handle on this. You’re aware of what big tech. is up to. Right?

I promise you, you have no idea.

To be fair, the products, services, and industries of our near future will provide us access and convenience built on pure genius and ingenuity. It’s truly phenomenal. So, why did this line from Jurassic Park keep running through my mind as I read each chapter?

Spoken by Jeff Goldblum’s character, Dr, Ian Malcolm, “Yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

The truth is, we all have a responsibility not just to adapt to the future as created by the digital savants of our age, but to look ahead and choose to help shape a future we can all inhabit.

Business Case In Point

As a marketing strategist, I believe in predictive analytics to help shape a strong marketing plan. I use software like Clearscope, to help make content efficient and effective. Machine learning software programs like this can determine what words to use in a blog based on what is currently being searched on the web with the most frequency and shared most often.

Lately.ai can atomize your long-form content and create captions for social media based on data analyzed by its software that determines what headlines will most likely resonate with your audience. These are time-saving, algorithm-pleasing AI marvels.

But, is the intention of the campaign to provide value, gain attention, increase followers and eventually provide a product to a customer while increasing profitability for the business? Or, will it also have a hand in shaping the future through teaching the AI about the thoughts, behaviors, and even emotions of the masses it’s targeted to influence?

After taking classes in Futures Thinking, Forecasting, and Design during the Covid lockdown, I realized those who are focused on determining the future would say it is all of the above.

Wielding the power of attention-grabbing, action-tracking, desire-predicting digital marketing is, in my opinion, easier than it should be.

We use the generally affordable tools developed for adoption by the masses. The learning curve is simplified. The license to deploy is a single swipe and a click of the “I agree” contract that nobody reads.

In my opinion, it’s time to pause and consider how to balance the ease of reaching thousands and the fleeting reassurance of vanity-based KPIs with the necessary effort of listening to and engaging with those who the algorithms may be teaching us to silence.

Your “What” is What’s Needed

It’s easy to react, pivot, and adjust by prioritizing agility. We can use the tools in front of us and agree that whoever adapts the fastest wins. We’ve witnessed this in action over the past year. The question is, will you be able to adjust quickly enough to the next change, event, or upheaval? Will you quickly accept the stories you’ve been conditioned to hear? Will you adopt each technological wonder without hesitation? And, perhaps more importantly, should you?

The power we’ve forgotten to hold onto lies in seeing the horizon of possible next outcomes and choosing to be an active participant in thoughtfully shaping a future in which we can all agree to live.

I challenge you to define not only your “why” but to commit to your “what”.

That “what” isn’t just what product, service, or skill you provide but what future you are committed to helping create.

If we don’t make the conscious decision to look ahead and participate in creating a path to the future we want, I fear we will continue racing at the breakneck speed of technology off the cliff’s edge of a future from which we may never recover.

Brand Strategist | StoryBrand Certified Guide

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