As a computing science student, I once met Joseph Weizenbaum, the MIT professor who created an infamous computer program called ELIZA. It was a mid-60’s version of ChatGPT, able to converse with people by responding to questions with pre-set answers. Many people who used ELIZA reacted as if they were talking with a psychotherapist. For Weizenbaum, the experience drew a line between technology and humanity – he declared that technology should always serve humans.
The lesson I learned from Weizenbaum’s talk shaped my perspective of an innovator: always put humans at the center. That approach to technology fits well with how P&G people are trained to always focus on how to make consumers’ lives better, as the foundation of building a thriving business. Creators and users of advanced digital technologies like AI are responsible for making technology a force for growth as well as a force for good.
We often look to the government to set rules to help protect its citizens from harm. The European Union is taking a lead role globally with the Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act, setting rules on how tech companies can compete and providing its users with greater controls. As Signal360’s John Battelle writes, the new rules will not only drive significant changes for the big tech platforms but also for all businesses that use these platforms. It will likely serve as a guide for how other governments – including the US – will adapt their rules.
Government itself has big challenges on how to best use digital technologies to serve their ‘customers’ – its citizens – better. Jennifer Pahlka, a digital entrepreneur and government policy advisor, created Code for America, a non-profit that brings tech leaders together to help government at all levels to make technology create better outcomes for the citizens it serves. In her Signal Conversation she shares that across all large business and government organizations, successful use of technology starts with a deep understanding of people and culture before creating strategy and policy.
Sometimes technology can help us better understand why people do what they do. In his Signal360 guest column John Dick, founder and CEO of CivicScience, explains how AI algorithms found people’s emotional well-being is currently a better predictor of how they spend money than shopping behavior or even inflation. His lesson is that marketers should focus on communicating the ‘experiences of physical goods.’
Another example of technology putting humans at the center is conversational commerce. Javier Mata, founder and CEO of Yalo explains in a Signal360 Spotlight how conversational interactions on widely adopted messaging apps like WhatsApp help small store owners stay connected with their shoppers and distributors and grow their business.
Rapidly changing technology is a constant, and so are its opportunities and risks. Accenture CEO Julie Sweet shared with the Signal 2023 audience that the largest global tech consulting company seeks to hire and invest in people who are learners. Her advice is to always be a learner, by creating new connections and gaining new insights every day.
Helping you learn is our Signal360 mission. Hopefully the topics in this issue make you think and gain a few new insights that you can apply. We’d love to learn from our ‘consumers’ – you – as well. Please feel free to send us a note (email@example.com) with your insights and reactions, as inspiration for future topics to cover. Until next month.
Stan Joosten & John Battelle,
Editors-In-Chief, Signal360 / Co-founders, Signal P&G