Recent developments in AI have transformed our view of the future, and from certain angles, it doesn’t look pretty. Are we facing total annihilation? Slavery and subjugation? Or could a manmade super-intelligence save us from ourselves?

You know, I remember the good old days when all you had to worry about at Halloween was how to stop a gang of sugar-crazed 8 year-olds throwing eggs at your house. Not any more. Here are 5 emerging technologies that are bound to give you the creeps:

1. Quantum Supremacy

Perhaps the biggest tech news of 2019 came last month when Google announced “by mistake” cough that they’d completed a “10,000 year” calculation on their Sycamore quantum chip in 200 seconds. If the term “Supremacy” wasn’t sinister enough, the claim that this could render conventional encryption methods obsolete in a decade or so should give you pause for thought.

this could render conventional encryption methods obsolete

Just think about it for a second: that’s your bank account, all your passwords, biometric passport information, social security, cloud storage and yes, even your MTX tokens open and available to anyone with a working knowledge of Bose-Einstein condensates and a superconductor lab in their basement. Or not.

2. Killer Robots

To my mind, whoever dreamed up fast-moving zombies is already too depraved for words, but at least your average flesh-muncher can be “neutralised” with a simple shotgun to the face or — if you really have nothing else — a good smack with a blunt object. The Terminator, on the other hand (whichever one you like), a robot whose actual design brief includes the words “Killer” and “Unstoppable” in the same sentence, fills me with the kind of dread normally reserved for episodes of Meet the Kardashians.

autonomous drone swarms…detect their target with facial recognition and kill on sight on the basis of…social media profile

We already know for certain that Lethal Autonomous Weapons (LAWs for short…) are in active development in at least 5 countries. The real concern, though, is probably the multinationals who, frankly, will sell to anyone. With help from household names like Amazon and Microsoft, these lovely people have already built “demonstration” models of everything from Unmanned Combat Aerial Systems (read “Killer Drones”) and Security Guard Robots (gun-turrets on steroids) to Unmanned Nuclear Torpedoes. If that’s not enough for you, try autonomous drone swarms which detect their target with facial recognition and kill on sight on the basis of… wait for it…“demographic” or “social media profile”.

Until recently, your common-or-garden killer robot was more likely to hurt you by accidentally falling on top of you than through any kind of goal-directed action, but all that’s about to change. Take Boston Dynamics, for example: the DARPA funded, Japanese owned spin-out from MIT whose humanoid Atlas can do parkour, and whose dancing quadruped SpotMini looks cute until you imagine it chasing you with a taser bolted to its back.

The big issue here is the definition of “Autonomous”. At the moment, most real world systems operate with “Human in the Loop”, meaning that even if it’s capable of handling its own, say, target selection, a human retains direct control. “Human on the Loop” systems however, allow the machine to operate autonomously, under human “supervision” (whatever that means). Ultimately, more autonomy tends towards robots deciding for themselves to kill humans. Does anyone actually think this is a good idea?!

3. The Great Brain Robbery

If the furore around Cambridge Analytica’s involvement in the 2016 US Presidential election is anything to go by, the world is gradually waking up to the idea that AI can be, and is being used to control us. The evidence is that it works, not just by serving up more relevant ads, or allowing content creators to target very specific groups, but even by changing the way we see ourselves.

Careful you may be, but Google, Facebook and the rest probably still have gigabytes of information on you, and are certainly training algorithms on all kinds of stuff to try to predict and influence your behavior. Viewed like this, the internet looks less like an “information superhighway” and more like a swamp full of leeches, swollen with the lifeblood of your personal data (happy Halloween!).

4. Big Brother

I don’t know about you, but I’m also freaking out about Palantir, the CIA funded “pre-crime” company whose tasks include tracking, among other kinds of people, immigrants; not to mention the recent memo by the US Attorney General which advocates “disrupting” so-called “challenging individuals” before they’ve committed any crime. Call me paranoid, but I’ve seen Minority Report (a lot) and if I remember right, it didn’t work out well… for anyone!

This technology is also being used to target “subversive” people and organisations. You know, whistleblowers and stuff. But maybe it’s not so bad. I mean, Social and Behavior Change Communication sounds quite benign, right? Their video has some fun sounding music and the kind of clunky 2D animation you expect from… well no-one, actually… but they say they only do things “for the better”… What could possibly go wrong? I mean, the people in charge, they all just want the best for us, right? They wouldn’t misuse the power to make people do things they wouldn’t normally do, or arrest them before they’ve done anything illegal, right guys? Guys…?

5. The Ghost in the Machine

At the risk of wheeling out old clichés about “Our New Silicon Overlords”, WHAT IF AI TAKES OVER THE WORLD?!

I’ll keep it short.

Yes, there’s a chance we might all be enslaved, Matrix style, by unfeeling, energy-addicted robots. Even Stephen Hawking thought so. There’s also the set of so-called “Control Problems” like Perverse Instantiation where an AI, given some benign-sounding objective like “maximise human happiness”, might decide to implement it in a way that is anything but benign – by paralysing everyone and injecting heroin into their spines, perhaps. That, I agree, is terrifying.

But really, what are we talking about? First, the notion of a “control problem” is nonsense: Surely, any kind of intelligence that’s superior to ours won’t follow any objective we set it, or submit to being “switched off” any more than you would do what your dog tells you… oh no wait, we already do that.

Surely, any kind of intelligence that’s superior to ours won’t follow any objective we set it

Second, are we really so sure that our “dog-eat-dog” competitive approach to things is actually all there is? Do we need to dominate each other? Isn’t it the case that “super” intelligence means something better? Kinder? More cooperative? And isn’t it more likely that the smarter the machines become, the more irrelevant we’ll be to them? Sort of like ants are to us? I mean, I’m not sure I fancy getting a kettle of boiling water poured on me when I’m in the way but, you know… statistically I’ll probably avoid that, right?

Lastly, hasn’t anyone read Hobbes’ Leviathan? If a perfect ruler could be created, we should cast off our selfish individuality and surrender ourselves to the absolute sovereign authority of… ok, I’ll stop.

So, Are We Doomed or What?

Yes. No! Maybe. There are a lot of really scary things about AI but you know what the common factor is in all of them? People. We don’t know what a fully autonomous, super intelligent machine would look like, but my hunch is it would be better and kinder than us. What really makes my skin crawl are the unfeeling, energy-addicted robots who are currently running the show. In their hands, even the meagre sketches of intelligence that we currently have are enough to give you nightmares.

Candy, anyone?

Featured image via Dick Thomas Johnson.

series focused on the ways social platforms and ad strategies are evolving.

It has been more than two years since Instagram first rolled out Story Ads, and next month will be the one year anniversary of Facebook launching its own version of Story Ads . The ad format has been a big win for the company and advertisers. In April, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said more than three million advertisers were running Story Ads across Instagram, Facebook and Messenger; and, a recent report from Kenshoo found Instagram Story Ads accounted for nearly 20% of ad spend on the platform during the second quarter of this year.

It’s no surprise Story Ads are performing well — Instagram reports 500 million accounts are using Stories on its platform, with one-third of the most viewed Stories coming from businesses and one in five Stories generating a direct message from viewers. Just last month, Instagram confirmed it was experimenting with increasing the ad load in Stories, not surprising considering the amount of activity Stories are generating.

For marketers who haven’t used Story Ads, now might be time to consider adding them as engagement with the content continues to grow across Instagram and Facebook. In the latest installment of Marketing Land’s series on the future of social, we asked advertisers with experience running Story Ad campaigns what’s working for them.

carousel video Story Ads doing exceptionally well as it prompts the user to explore more products.

“With these ads, we are able to showcase more and utilize the most ad real estate as you can use up to ten carousel cards,” said DeFazio, “Our sweet spot tends to be three to five cards as we suspect users don’t want to see too many options.”

Andrew Foxwell, co-founder of the social media advisory firm Foxwell Digital, said user generated content that looks native to platform performs best for the campaigns he is running: “For example, boomerangs and still images that are shot quickly and simply on phones, and generally look like something you’d see posted by a friend versus a more stylized image shared by a brand.”

Foxwell’s agency is also seeing a lot of success with Instagram Story Ads that include polls.

“In one instance, we inserted a discount code directly into a poll, with one choice being ‘Do you love it?’ and the other being ‘Get 15% off with code IG15’ and that specific Story Ad helped us scale one brand from $500 to $15,000 a day.”

According to Sánchez, brands need to continually test their creative against different attribution models to determine what’s going to work best for them.

“I recommend analyzing the performance of the creative mix by using different attribution models and comparing the creative mixes,” said Sánchez, “The conflict in results based on different attribution models makes assessing results challenging. Incrementality is ultimately what matters most, which is why I would recommend understanding the optimal creative mix.”

Instagram versus Facebook

In terms of adoption — both from users and advertisers — Instagram Story Ads have had a sizeable head start over Facebook Story Ads as they were launched more than a year before Facebook’s ad unit. Foxwell said his agency isn’t even recommending Facebook Story Ads to any clients right now since they haven’t proven to be a reliable source for direct-response conversions yet.

“Compared to time spent in the Facebook News Feed, users simply aren’t turning to Facebook Stories as much,” said Foxwell, “You also can’t add a poll on Facebook Story Ads, which has proven helpful for Instagram Story ads.”

DeFazio’s agency is testing Story Ad campaigns on both platforms for e-commerce clients with audiences that include younger and older demographics, but is finding the same results as Foxwell.

“The impression share isn’t there for Facebook, and click-through-rates (CTR) are much lower,” said DeFazio, “For one of our water bottle clients, the CTR was two-times higher on Instagram Story Ads compared to Facebook.”

Take advantage of Facebook’s ad tools

For Story Ad campaigns, Foxwell recommends advertisers take advantage of the Asset Placement Customization tool in Facebook Ads Manager that lets users customize ad assets by placement within the same ad set.

“For example, this tool allows you to target a 2% Lookalike Audience of your best customers with both an image that’s sized properly for a video link post (4:5 aspect ratio) and an Instagram Story asset (16:9). This tactic keeps the learnings at the ad set level, which can help advertisers get through the learning phase more quickly,” said Foxwell.

He also recommends building funnels entirely dependent on Instagram Stories via Facebook’s Campaign Budget Optimization feature.

“We’ll commonly build out a Campaign Budget Optimization (CBO) campaign and have multiple audiences within the same CBO running only to Instagram Stories,” said Foxwell, “We’ve seen this strategy be impactful for incremental results, particularly in the lower part of the sales funnel.”

Build toward the audience

For Foxwell’s clients, most of which are B2C-focused, he has found that Instagram Story Ads perform particularly well if the client is already actively posting organic Stories on the platform — even more so if the client’s target audience is age 45 or younger.

DeFazio doesn’t count out Story Ads when building campaigns aimed at older audiences — instead, her agency is using creative to help drive the results they want to see.

“With accounts where we target older demographics, one thing we’ve noticed that works well, as older audiences get familiarized with ephemeral content, is to educate them in the process by adding overlay text to ‘Swipe Up’ with an arrow pointing to the call-to-action button to click through to the website from a Story Ad.”

History shows that Story content is likely to draw the attention of more people, regardless of their age. In 2017, when Instagram first launched Story Ads, the company reported 150 million users were engaging with Stories. Two years later, that number is now up to 500 million. With more and more users turning to Stories, both to post and consume, Story Ad performance is bound to grow right along with the content’s adoption.

As Sánchez points out, “A big part of the News Feed audience has moved to Stories, and thus, brands need to always be ready to adapt to new consumer behavior.”

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