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Seeing through the smoke and mirrors around AI and Web3

Published Jul 18, 2023 – By Matt Moody

Young man with question mark in his head isolated over abstract background.

Earlier this month, as artificial intelligence, or AI, continued to grab headlines in the marketing world, Wardour set off for the seaside to attend a fascinating discussion hosted by the Design Business Association (DBA) down in Brighton. The event focused on the latest developments around AI and Web3, and what they mean for agencies like ours – and our clients. Web3, for those who might be less familiar with the term, is an envisaged new era of the internet focused on decentralisation, which incorporates technologies including blockchain and cryptocurrencies – more on that later!

Since the explosion of ChatGPT and other generative AI tools into the collective consciousness in recent months, breathless predictions about the imminent world-takeover of artificial intelligence and machine learning have been hard to avoid. Cast your mind back a little further, and you might recall similar excitement around Web3 as the world emerged from lockdown. By the end of 2022, however, the value of digital currencies like Bitcoin was plummeting, and the NFT bubble looked to have burst. Could artificial intelligence be headed the same way?

In Brighton, a key takeaway was the importance of seeing through the hype with new technology and avoiding “making decisions based on FOMO” (fear of missing out). “Beware the law of the instrument”, exhorted writer, web developer and UX consultant Jeremy Keith. “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail”. There are some areas where the use of an AI tool or AI system can really make a difference, like automatically transcribing podcasts, for example, which is great for making content more accessible. The trick is spotting those use cases, and not putting the cart before the horse.

In his presentation, Warren Hutchinson, chair of the DBA, discussed some potential uses of Web3 technologies that have been overshadowed by some more headline-grabbing applications, like the ape cartoon NFTs that saw celebrities scrabbling to invest. The best way to think of Web3 is through “applied concepts” like decentralisation, Warren explained. He described how Web3 tech can be used to give people more control over their personal health data, and how blockchain technology-powered ‘smart contracts’ can vastly speed up the time it takes to buy and sell a house. However, as Jeremy astutely noted later on, old-fashioned things like law and policy are just as important for getting things done at a national level as tech. 

Following Warren, we heard from Andy Sexton, partner at the experimental agency 2LK. Andy talked about the importance of curiosity and a culture that encourages and enables R&D – and how the two go hand in hand. He shared a memorable metaphor comparing the process of getting to grips with AI technology to riding a horse after previously riding a bike: you don’t have to pedal, but it has a mind of its own… Staying ten minutes ahead of the curve is important to us at Wardour, and you can keep up with our latest thinking via our monthly Insights newsletter.  

Jeremy also talked about the importance of using precise language to cut through the “smoke and mirrors” that big tech companies are often guilty of, particularly ‘AI’, which can mean a vast number of things. Much of the current discussion around AI in fact refers to large language models, or LLMs – the specific technology that powers ChatGPT; while the hypothetical world-dominating Terminator-style AI that has caused consternation recently might be better described as ‘AGI’ – or artificial general intelligence. Talking about tech demands a fine balance between catchall terms that people have heard of and technical terms that might be more accurate – both of which can be confusing in their own way. It’s something we’ll be thinking about in our own writing. 

During the Q&A at the end of the session, there were some great discussion around artificial intelligence biases, customised chatbots and, of course, everyone’s favourite social media platform, Twitter – all of which could have warranted a blog post of their own. If there was one thing everyone agreed on, it was the importance of experimentation. Cutting-edge tools like ChatGPT are accessible to anyone with an internet connection, but because they’re so new, there’s no instruction manual. As Warren said, the key to success is “not being afraid to poke the bear”. 

To learn more about how Wardour can help with your next campaign, pop us an email at hello@wardour.co.uk – we’d love to have a chat with you.

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