I was invited to watch a Festival of Media Global 2013 panel called "Algorithm Versus Man" via a Google+ Hangout, but unfortunately the panel time was changed while I was still asleep here in the United States. A week later, the panel was made available to me via Dropbox. So much for being able to watch in real-time with today's technology.
Oddly enough, what today's technology is truly capable of was a major focus on the panel.
The moderator was Mark Palmer, founder, Maverick Planet. The panelists included George John, CEO and founder, Rocket Fuel; Ricky Liversidge, CMO, DG MediaMind; and Sameer Singh, VP & head of global media planning, strategy and buying, GlaxoSmithKline.
Palmer opened up the panel by giving two movie examples of what machines could become. The first is the lovable, kind, animated Wall-E. The second is the ultimate science-project-gone-bad example: Terminator. Palmer cited and IBM study that claims the biggest worry of global CMOs is a "lack of control of data." So he asked the panelists whether or not the industry is exaggerating what the current technologies are capable of when it comes to data wrangling.
John said that computers learn over time, and that the technologies available present "a great opportunity for marketing." When it comes to the machines learning, John said, "They just can."
"They just can?" Palmer challenged in a mocking voice.
John later explain how the machines "just can" learn. Essentially, he said, the machines put together a giant list of impression served and whether or not they worked. He said that the machines look for patterns and can readjust accordingly.
"We all got here with machines," said John. "Planes, trains, cars." He argued that once you get comfortable with machines and what they can do to help, they are no longer menacing.
There is obviously some disconnect, though. If all of these technologies are truly capable of simplifying data enough, would the number one worry of a CMO be the lack of control of data? There's a disconnect somewhere.