Let’s face it, the future isn’t turning out to be what we were promised in decades past. No flying cars, and the closest thing to robot butlers are Siri and Alexa. Don’t get me wrong, they’re handy in their ways: suggesting nearby Thai food or tending to virtual shopping carts as we yell our grocery lists across the room. But they’re not really artificial intelligence (AI). In fact, nothing that’s commercially available really is — at least not yet.
In marketing, for example, all kinds of martech come with an AI label. But much of what marketers are touting when they describe their machine-learning, data-driven, lead-boosting, conversion-creating tools is only AI by the narrowest of definitions. That is, these technologies are more accurately described as IA, or intelligent automation.
What’s the difference between AI and IA, and why does it matter?
In order to understand why most martech is not AI, it’s helpful to look at the two categories of intelligence: general AI and narrow AI.
The artificial intelligence that we know from science fiction is called general AI. It’s a flexible, always-learning intelligence, comparable to our own human intelligence. In fact, the only significant difference between AI and human intelligence is that AI is human-built. It can set its own parameters, much as humans can define how and what we’ll learn — and what we’ll then do with that learning.
General AI will likely become a reality someday, but there’s no consensus about how soon this breakthrough will occur, or what its full implications will be. In the meantime, while we’re waiting for HAL from “2001” to emerge, we have narrow AI.