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What IT Can Learn About the Future of Generative AI from Future of Marketing Scenarios: Challenges and Opportunities

What IT Can Learn About the Future of Generative AI from Future of Marketing Scenarios: Challenges and Opportunities

March 11, 2023 by Daniel W. Rasmus

The future of generative AI: early challenges for IT, and opportunities

I recently attended the annual scenario planning session for friend and colleague Rob Salkowitz’s ‘Future of Marketing’ class in the Communications Leadership program at the University of Washington. We introduced his students to scenario planning and asked them to think about how the technologies of the moment may play out against different social, technological, economic, environmental, and political backdrops over the next decade.

robot pointing on a wall

The scenarios simultaneously suggest that under the right circumstances, our fears for an overtly AI-fueled world where data and algorithms rule may manifest—or that AI’s history of over-promising may just as likely lead us to a fourth AI winter—or equally lead to a dysfunctional future where AI-driven misinformation forces those who want to maintain civilization into creating islands of “truth.”

As I assert to my learners, there is no data from the future. At this point, all of these futures are equally valid—our choices create the future. Scenario planning helps us make better-informed decisions by helping people experience the implications of those decisions through narratives that describe how choices manifest and interact.

Few IT organizations explore technologies through the lens of scenario planning. Hopefully, these ten takeaways from our class’s scenarios will encourage readers to explore our scenarios so that they can employ the technique to create more robust IT strategies.

What IT leaders can learn about the Future of Generative AI from scenario planning

When a new technology becomes the center of discussion, it disrupts multiple assumptions underlying technology architectures and business solutions. Planners often dismiss the technology as a fad, panic, and over-focus on its threat to beliefs or wantonly adopt it with little thought about its implications.

top view photo of people near wooden table

Photo by fauxels on Pexels.com

Scenario planning offers a middle road, one where multiple narratives about the future, populated with uncertainties of varying values depending on the scenario logic, expose the weaknesses in ideas and technologies and the interconnections between technology, the economy, society, politics and the planet that may fuel change or curtail it.

Scenario planning builds a set of lenses that offer different perspectives about the future. Those lenses can help teams avoid surprises, drive innovation, or better navigate change by pre-considering which triggers to monitor and which contingencies to deploy when shifts occur. 

Ten Take-Aways about the Future of Generative AI from Future of Marketing Scenarios

  1. We can’t assume the current movement toward generative AI ubiquity will persist. Social and political factors may disrupt adoption through legislative action or social pushback.
  2. It is too early to determine the limits of generative AI, but more than one scenario suggests severe tensions between creativity and mediocrity may challenge the long-term viability of the technology.
  3. The best uses of AI will focus on solving real problems. In the near term, the proliferation of generative AI may prove more of a distraction than a productive partner. It will take time for consistent value to emerge.
  4. There will be many implementations of generative AI, and they will not share equal veracity for the truth; some may be trained to support a bias or purposefully sow disinformation. Discussions of AI ethics are misplaced. Humans must deploy ethics in their use of technology; it cannot be embedded in it.
  5. Many tools will adopt generative AI in the near term with varying degrees of success in offering value. Evaluate AI features as you would other new features, including what people need to know to use them effectively.

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