You’re at a holiday cocktail party, it’s work related. Everybody is talking about everybody they know. You don’t know anybody, but you do know something: artificial intelligence will change your life and, it’ll change marketing.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the art of making computers think. Machine learning is a type of AI that gives computers the ability to learn without being explicitly programmed. Machine learning helps  computer programs teach themselves to grow and change when exposed to new data.

You and your party people may already use machine learning for better segmentation, preventing churn and for personalize messaging, but when you bring this up, you realize it’s harder than you’d think to discuss AI trends and threats.

When you talk about the AI controversy at a cocktail party, you find three major camps of thought: optimists, skeptics, and people who want flying cars.

Where do you stand?

Optimists see the best-case scenario

They imagine a fusion of humanity and technology that will improve life for all. When you think of optimists, think Ray Kurzweil.

Kurzweil believes that humanity will merge with technology to overcome disease and poverty. He believes that we will one day live forever. He and his followers are considered Futurists.

In his vision of the future, our genome’s nanobots may course through our blood and proactively repair irregular, or damaged tissue. Brain implants will augment our intelligence with the Internet, which will become even more like a living pool of sentience.

He calls this unprecedented moment the Singularity.

His credentials exceed his eccentricities. He is an inventor famous for predicting the future. When he was 17 years old, he built a computer and played the music it wrote on the television show, “I’ve Got A Secret.” Mind you, this was 1965, long before computers were in every home, thirty years before electronic music was in vogue. He invented the first print-to-speech reading machine for the blind and the first text-to-speech synthesizer, amongst other groundbreaking contributions.

Forbes called him “the rightful heir to Thomas Edison.” He is now Google’s Director of Engineering.

He is also known for accurately predicting the future. If he’s right when he says we’ll soon live forever, eternity is a few calendars away.

Skeptics see robot armies

Skeptics shudder at the possibility of Skynet, Minority Report’s preventative justice. When they think back on the Brave Little Toaster, they may see a smart house gone awry. Why? Because these scenarios aren’t too far-fetched.

quadcopter-01The thought of Atlas, running free in the woods keeps skeptics up at night. They think about the fact that American citizens police remote parts of the world from desks. They see that robots can teach each other, that MIT has developed autonomous drones, and wonder how long it will take for robots to surpass us. When they do, will they tolerate us? Or will they hijack our world and turn it against us?

Some call them paranoid, but some of the smartest people on the planet stand in their ranks. Among them are Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking, and Bill Gates, people who have dedicated their lives to evolving humanity as a species.

Elon Musk has invested $10 million in the Future of Life Institute to ensure AI is developed to better humanity.

He didn’t become a billionaire by investing his time or his money frivolously.

People who want flying cars are along for the ride

To be clear, almost every one wants a flying car. What makes this cohort special is that they may not talk about AI until they get they’re zipping through the sky, chauffeured by a sentient robot.

Some say these folks are present. Others describe them as reactive. Regardless, they’re probably wondering why you brought up AI at a cocktail party. They don’t want to think this far ahead because life is here and now. When you talk with them about the Singularity or the Terminator, they’ll understand. But when you probe, you discover that the Jetsons let them down.
Future cars flying over the city

Think Simon Cowell. These people may relate better to more tangible examples of AI.

You can tell them that Google is using deep learning to analyze emails and generate simple responses. You can talk about the convenience of the tool and dive into the implications: what if computers start making personal decisions? They’re already thinking for investors.

If they still don’t want to talk about AI (and they’re single), tell them that robots are on Tinder. Then say something like, “life is becoming more like a Turing Test every day.” If you, or they, have had enough to drink, pretend to be a robot. Tell them you escaped from an underground Google lab. If they test you, say you need a better WiFi signal.

Don’t be frustrated if the conversation reverts back to flying cars, or ends abruptly. What matters is that you started the AI conversation.

Order another round

Hopefully, you’ve elevated the cocktail party to a symposium. You probably haven’t unlocked the future, but perhaps you’ve opened a few eyes. No matter where you stand, AI is a fact of life. It’s good to have a perspective.

Most people won’t become demigods or influence the destiny of the human race in a major way, but everyday decisions add up. AI will only become more accessible.

We’ll have better medicines, smarter tools, and robotic nannies. Some people will see tremendous hope in better medicines, smarter tools, and robotic nannies. Others will see their inherent dangers.

And some people will still hold out for a flying car.

At the end of the night, it may not matter where you stand. Necessity drives innovation, but accident is the mother of invention. You may unwittingly save – or end – the world.