Marketing Advice for Very Small Businesses: Should you go all in on AI?
AI is evolving at a rapid pace—so any advice will probably be outdated by tomorrow. Better to take a hard look at AI itself in terms of classic trend-spotting theory. Every time something like this comes along, I look at it through the lens of the 5 considerations that distinguish a true trend from a novelty.
If you think in terms of a tidal wave, a craze is the tidal wave and a trend is what’s left on the beach after the tidal wave recedes—sometimes not much (i.e. biofuels). Anyone can recognize a trend once the tidal wave has receded; the trick is to predict what—if anything--will be left on the beach while the tidal wave is still on the horizon. Here are 5 determinants of a true trend in terms of AI—helpful predictors of how quickly you need to get to the beach.
1. Is it Obviously Useful?
While novelties have obscure value, trends are straightforward—it’s easy to think of ways to take advantage of a trend. This is a little tricky when it comes to AI. With ChatGPT in particular, the possibilities seemed almost endless. It did seem REALLY useful. Then we began to realize that there were limits to its usefulness. You can’t use it to create anything that requires fact-checking—and almost everything does. And there are plagiarism (legal) issues. It also requires at least some rewriting. So is it obviously useful, on the surface yes—deep down, maybe not just yet.
2. Does it Have Broad Appeal and Application?
A novelty tends to appeal to a small segment, a trend has broader appeal. A novelty has a very narrow set of applications, while a trend has nearly unlimited applications. In fact, trends develop more and more applications over time, while novelties have fewer and fewer. The interesting thing about AI is that it has actually been around for a long time in the form of machine learning and big data, both of which were only viable for large organizations that had resources to spend on high performance computing technology. Today, AI is available to the masses and the applications are rapidly expanding.
3. It is Sustainable?
Many novelties could evolve into trends except for the fact they cannot be profitably mass produced for very long—the aforementioned biofuels are an example. This, of course, is not an issue with AI—except for any legal issues that may curb growth.
4. It Meshes with Other Trends
Most major trends are the result of a process called trend blending. This happens when multiple less significant trends merge to form the next big trend. In other words, the new trend is just a logical progression of events. As high-performance computing became more and more sophisticated, as more people were rewriting Google search results to write content, and as companies like Microsoft were looking to expand out of traditional technology markets, the atmosphere was just right for AI.
5. Does it Have Some History?
Most trends are not new. They’ve appeared in some form in the past. They seem new only because they never appear in exactly the same form twice. What makes them new is the new environment (context) and thus new applications. AI does have deep roots in data science and high-performance computing, which ultimately have their roots in mathematics.
Looking at aspects of AI through these 5 lenses, it does have 1 marginal and 4 clear elements of a trend. Once the bugs are worked out, it will have more and more uses. It has broad appeal and application. It is sustainable. It aligns with current trends. And it has definitely appeared in some form before.
Right now, we are in the middle of the AI tidal wave. The smart play is to use your time on the beach strategizing while you wait for the exact moment the tidal wave begins to recede.
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