Top of Mind Thursday Memo Archive

The End of the World as We Know It?

If you listen to the pundits, AI is about to turn our world upside down, bots and sentient tools will take over our jobs, and we will lose control ofcivilization as we know it.

Really?

According to Wikipedia, AI is capable of generating text, images, videos, or other data using generative models, often in response to prompts. These models learn patterns and structure and then generate new models.

Sounds kind of scary. And in some ways it is. It’s getting harder and harder to differentiate between real photos and deep fakes. Artificially generated voices sound just like the real people they’re emulating, and AI-generated text can easily replicate the style of a given writer.

But does that mean we’re doomed? Not likely. We already have integrated many “AI-like” tools into our everyday lives, from Amazon and Netflix recommendations to structural engineering and medical diagnosis and treatment models. Technology has been moving forward with new and creative ways to solve problems for generations. What do you think your great grandparents would have thought of iPhones, GPS systems, and automated systems that alert their handlers they need immediate attention?

Will jobs be lost to the next generation of technology? Undoubtedly. Just as we no longer have elevator attendants, phone operators, or bridge toll takers in today’s world, we likely won’t need many repetitive fairly mindless jobs that are around today.

Will the world end because of this? Unlikely. We’re now facing a global fertility crisis, where more people are dying than being born to replace them. As the population ages, we’ll need more tools and technologies to help us work more efficiently, stay healthier as we age, take better care ofthe world we live in, and manage the AI-generated systems around us.

We’ll create new occupations to replace those that are no longer necessary. It’s as impossible for us to imagine what they’ll be, just as it would have been for your ancestors to imagine some of the tech we take for granted today.

Will AI replace humans? It’s been nearly 400 years since Antonio Stradiveri crafted exquisite string instruments and over 300 since Cristofori produced the world’s first piano. Yet, we are nowhere near able to recreate the magic of a musical virtuoso with even the best of today’s technology.

AI may be the end of the world as we know it. Or, it may be that we just evolve to a better place where we still feel just fine.

Check out our  marketing leadership podcasts and  the video trailer for my book, Marketing Above the Noise: Achieve Strategic Advantage with Marketing that Matters.
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Can’t We Just Talk?

It happened again this week. I tried to have a conversation with a customer service rep from a company where I am a bonafide customer.

I had a phone number, and there was a prompt for getting to their customer service line. The problem is that prompt took me to a pre-recorded message that told me how to access them through email, their website, and an app. I tried several times to work my way through their phone tree, but I wound up back again at the same recorded message that took me nowhere.

Here’s the thing: I have a support question that a live human (not a bot, thank you) could probably solve in less than 60 seconds. But trying to solve this through an automated mechanism was not only going to take a lot more time, it was unlikely to get me the information I needed—something a human rep would know that their algorithm would not.

More and more, we find ourselves faced with what I’d call customer desertion systems. Once in awhile, you may actually get to a live human in a call center offshore for whom English is obviously not their first language. They can answer the half dozen or so questions covered in their app, and that’s it. Heaven help you if your issues needs escalation.

But then there’s Chewy.com.

We got home last week after having lost our new puppy to find the large bag of dog food we’d ordered from Chewy sitting by the door. Darn. My daughter called Chewy, immediately got a live person, told him what happened, and asked if we could return the unopened box.

He told us how sorry he was that we’d gone through that—it’s never easy to lose a family member. There are no returns on pet food, but they would credit my account for the amount, and we should donate the food to a pet shelter, which we will do.

Wow. How simple was that. He made a potentially difficult conversation easier and reinforced our loyalty to an online website that sells a generic product—pet food. You can bet that when we get the next dog, we’ll be back to Chewy for all of our pet needs.

Not only that, but here I am telling all of you about a great customer service interaction. That’s worth talking about!

Check out our  marketing leadership podcasts and  the video trailer for my book, Marketing Above the Noise: Achieve Strategic Advantage with Marketing that Matters.
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Puppy Love

Six months after losing Mocha, our beloved 14-year-old Siberian Husky, we adopted a beautiful red Husky puppy we named Siara Storm.

On Monday, just four weeks after bringing her home, we were forced to put her down because she went into severe kidney failure with little chance of recovery.

In retrospect, we think Siara may have been born with kidney problems. She always craved water but didn’t pee much, and she seemed not to have as much energy as most Huskies.

But the signs were subtle. At least four different vets saw her and didn’t make the connection until she was desperately ill. Even if we’d figured this out as soon as we got her, it’s not clear she could have recovered enough to have a normal life.

There’s no one who loves you like your dog. Not your parents, your kids, your siblings, or your spouse. We bond to dogs and they bond to us. Together, we make both our lives better. They really are our best friends.

That’s why it’s so hard to hear about how South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem not only shot a 14-month-old puppy in cold blood because she thought he was “untrainable,” but featured a story about this incident in her recently published memoir.

Really? There were no alternatives? No one else to take in this animal and give it a loving home? No shelters that would have tried to find a new family for this puppy? More often that not, it’s not the dog that’s untrainable, but the owner. But if the dog really was so terrible (hard to believe for a puppy that young!), there was no other more humane way to put it down?

There is a special place in Hell reserved for those who abuse animals. Some of these people go on to abuse or even kill people. We can learn a lot about the nature of a person by how they treat the people around them. I wouldn’t want someone who shoots puppies making decisions for the American people.

In the midst of our grief at losing our puppy, we at least know we gave her as much love and support as we could for the short time she was with us.

RIP, Siara Storm.

Check out our  marketing leadership podcasts and  the video trailer for my book, Marketing Above the Noise: Achieve Strategic Advantage with Marketing that Matters.
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Seeing is No Longer Believing

A picture was once worth a thousands words. There was a time when we knew we could believe what we saw with our own eyes.

Not so much anymore. Technology has gotten advanced enough that pictures and videos can be dummied up to appear to show something that isn’t accurate. AI tools can replicate voices to a high degree of accuracy. In some cases, “deep fakes” look and sound awfully real.

Then there’s social media. The good news is these tools are available to all of us. The bad news is anyone and everyone can be an expert—creating attractive graphics and charts, and sometimes misinterpreting or misconstruing data.

Add in foreign agents, like Russia, China, or Iran, who are supposedly pouring their own misinformation into our daily feeds, and you have, as the British would say, a bloody mess.

How do you figure out what’s for real amidst all of this?

This is where critical thinking skills are, well, critical:

  • We have to consider the source, what their motivation might be, and how trustworthy they are.
  • Are multiple sources across multiple media channels reporting similar things? Or, do those sources report a story so differently we don’t even recognize it from one telling to the next?
  • Do people claiming moral high ground rely on accurate historical data—or does it appear they’re making it up and reworking the past as they go?
  • Do supposedly data-driven reports make sense? For example, it’s not possible that casualty numbers in a war zone are identical day after day—wars just don’t work that way.

We may never be able to go back to the good ole days when seeing something always meant it was real. But, if we try, we might just be able to see a more comprehensive picture of reality than the latest Tweet or TikTok video leads you to believe.

 

Check out our  marketing leadership podcasts and  the video trailer for my book, Marketing Above the Noise: Achieve Strategic Advantage with Marketing that Matters.
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