There has been a lot of discussion recently about the future implications of intelligence, from the number of human jobs at risk to work "below the API" – even to the existential threat posed to humanity. We have seen astonishing progress in areas such as computer vision and language understanding and translation. From Google cars to Watson’s Jeopardy domination to personal assistants such as Siri, computers are becoming increasingly intelligent and sophisticated.
It is clear that soon no part of our lives will be left untouched by these changes. And when we think about advertising, this is absolutely the case. It is now easy to see how planning, research, insight and buying activities will be eaten by software, but it is even true of very human advertising domains, such as creativity. That’s right. In the near future, the best creatives in your agency will be computers.
I’ve shared this insight with agencies in London and was met with an almost universal: "No way." Then we explain what we are creating at Yossarian Lives. Suddenly, the penny drops and faces go white: "Wait… you’re teaching computers to do the thing that I thought computers were never supposed to be able to do?"
Now is the time for the ad world to engage with these tools to understand how they will impact business
For the past year, we have been working on a computational creative system called Yossarian that "augments" your creativity through lateral association. Your ability to see lateral connections is limited to your own experience and too often the process is dependent on serendipity for the big idea or insight.
Yossarian assists in these moments, getting you to a more diverse set of ideas faster. Because Yossarian accesses more information about the world than one individual can ever hope to, it can suggest directions that may not otherwise be considered.
Yossarian is optimised for fresh, curious, questionable and even crazy linkages. It is in stark contrast to the experience of using Google search to inspire creativity, where hours can be wasted. Instead of regurgitating what the world already knows about a topic, Yossarian works to suggest new ways of looking at things.
We have enjoyed promising early results, with creatives, planners and strategists using the tool in their daily work (without admitting it). We have received seed funding from Saatchinvest, and we even know of one major campaign in the past year that was initially inspired by Yossarian.
It is early days for augmented creativity tools, but now is the time for the advertising world to avoid denial about this coming wave of augmented creativity and engage with these tools to understand how they will impact business. The agencies and creatives that embrace this technology will be the ones that lead the coming revolution.
J Paul Neeley is the co-founder and chief executive of Yossarian Lives