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From self-aware robots to space exploration, people have been fixated on how AI can be applied to change the course of humanity. Bringing it back to earth is IBM's latest spot, which highlights how useful its AI can be in the present, while encouraging people to look into the not-too-distant future. We explore the insights behind the ad and understand how IBM Watson wants people to look beyond AI’s novelty and understand its more practical uses.

At the start of IBM Watson's whirlwind, minute-long TV spot 'The Deep Learning Business AI', ordinary people speculate about AI's potential. "It will transform the human race," says a newscaster on-screen. "It's gonna solve unsolveable problems," says a cab driver. "It'll find life on Mars," says a barista. But here's the thing, says the charismatic voiceover: "You don't live on Mars". Instead, rapid shots through production lines, warehouses, call centres, and shopping malls highlight how IBM's Watson AI can be applied to help businesses in the present moment, without a single moon shot needed.

What are the practical uses of AI in the future?
IBM | YouTube (2018) ©

Aimed at the 53% of Americans who say they rarely or never think about the 'far future' – something that might happen three decades or more from now – IBM's ad brings AI's vast potential back down to earth. Rather, it's showcasing its more immediate applications, appealing to the 35% who think about what will happen over the 'near future' – the next five years – at least once a week. And given AI's rapid growth has been plagued with popular anxieties, IBM's decision to show how Watson can work alongside existing processes – rather than replace them altogether – may help put minds at ease.

Alex Quicho is the Library editor at Canvas8, which specialises in behavioural insights and consumer research. Born in Boston and raised in Manila, she loves to read and write about art, power, and the future. She has a master’s degree in critical writing from the Royal College of Art.

Canvas8

03 Sep 18
2 min read

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