The Future Of Human Agency, Give Or Take 12 Years

In the brief history of media time, the most meaningful developments so far have been things that enable humans to be more human, providing access to news, weather, information, culture, and yes, even enabling us to organize time itself. And while there were always some trade-offs and unintended consequences with the advent of each new media technology, they generally gave us the ability to do more of the stuff we wanted to do. And equally importantly, less of the stuff we don't want to do.

So we traded off things like memory, because it was easier to store and access lots of unstructured information on machines, especially searchable ones.

The problem with the next media epoch -- the one we are living through now -- is that we may be giving up more than we planned or wanted to, namely our own agency.

That's the question raised by a wide cross-section of experts on media in a new Pew Research Center report on "The Future of Human Agency," and while it's mostly a collection of essays and verbatim comments, the Pew team did provide a nifty stat, which I have delineated here, which is a good thing, because it's a pretty dense report to wade through. And ironically might be more easily parsed by a good machine.

A majority (56%) of the 540 experts Pew canvassed, do not believe humans will still be in control of key decision-making by 2030, and will have off-loaded it to smart, machines, bots and the next-generation of AI-powered devices, frameworks and platforms that will be deciding it for us.

I resisted asking a generative AI tool the same question for obvious reasons.

But I'd like to ask readers of this column to think about what -- as advertising and media-buying professionals -- your explicit role in all of this is.

The reality is that most media, especially the most advanced technological kinds, would not exist if it wasn't for economics. And advertising still is one of the most important, if not the most important one for the technologies that a majority of experts believe will replace human free will within a dozen years.

It's no coincidence that one of the most immediate economic applications for the current generation of generative AI is in search, but based on the public attention that Microsoft's Sydney is getting, maybe we should pause, take a breath, and make some key human decisions about where we want to take this media technology next.

While we still can.

1 comment about "The Future Of Human Agency, Give Or Take 12 Years".
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  1. Craig Mcdaniel from Sweepstakes Today LLC, February 28, 2023 at 12:41 a.m.

    Joe, one thing that might add a few years to th agency side is the class-action lawsuits by both the DOJ and States. I have been told there are many changes that many want to see happen for the better in advertising. 

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