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It’s time to accentuate AI positivity. The Drum will do its bit at Davos


By Gordon Young | Editor-in-Chief

January 9, 2024 | 6 min read

The Drum editor-in-chief Gordon Young tees up the AI agenda at Davos.

Davos skyline

From the Las Vegas Strip to the snow drifts of Davos, one issue will echo through the canyons and cantons. AI... AI…AI… will reverberate at CES and the World Economic Forum.

No wonder. It is poised to transform every imaginable facet of our lives. Even talking about it in a narrow context, such as marketing, seems facile. The analogy of marketers behaving like the cast of ‘Don’t Look Up’ springs to mind when they discuss this in the context of generating ad copy or streamlining media planning. We are already in the shadow of a great dirty comet that will upend everything, totally, completely and utterly.

The threat looms large. But so does the opportunity. However, how will industry, government and society respond?

Will they emphasize mitigating the risk to protect the status quo? Or will they embrace the technology to usher in the next industrial revolution?

As things stand, it looks like the former. Governments in developed countries increasingly counter innovation with regulation.

And according to a fascinating study, they simply reflect the views of the population at large.

The research by IZA Institute compared sentiment before the first Industrial Revolution – a seminal event in human history that sent population, living standards and life expectancy soaring - to attitudes today.

The researchers analyzed 173,031 books printed in England between 1500 and 1900, tracking how the frequency of certain terms changed over time.

They found a real increase in language related to progress and innovations starting in the early 1700s. They argue that this positive view of progress and science accounts in some part for the Industrial Revolution itself happening when it did.

The Financial Times extended the survey to cover Spain and discovered evidence of a similar phenomenon there.

The study then looked at how language has evolved over the last 60 years. It found that developed countries have started to shift away from the culture of progress and toward one of anxiety and risk aversion.

The frequency of terms related to progress, improvement and the future has dropped by around 25% since the 1960s, while negative sentiment has become more common. Of course, we have seen an economic slowdown over the same period. Coincidence?

So that is why The Drum is doing its bit to accentuate the positive in Davos. We are running a panel with Infosys and appearing on one with the FT, which aims to put a positive spin on the opportunities AI offers.

And why shouldn’t marketers view AI positively? The skill sets they have put them in pole position to benefit.

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Received wisdom used to assume the geeks would inherit the earth. But it looks like their skills are most likely to be superseded by the machine. Instead, it is the creative, right-brainers who seemed destined for the driving seat.

And the IZA study underlines how important communication, the marketer’s core skill, really can be.

Maybe I am overly optimistic about AI being a force for good and humankind’s ability to rise to the myriad of challenges it faces. But I am clear-eyed about the dangers of talking ourselves into decline. In Davos, The Drum will do its bit to ensure terms like progress, innovation and optimism remain part of the discourse.

We are running a panel with Infosys and appearing on one with the FT, which aims to put a positive spin on the opportunities AI offers. you can sign up for our sessions here

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