So what’s it like being the CMO of one of the most exciting and sought-after properties in today’s marketing world? Stephen Gold, CMO and VP of Business Development for IBM Watson, replies that “It’s exhilarating and scary at the same time.”
“You build up this expectation. Early on, people come [to the Watson Center in New York City] not knowing what to expect. You temper what that experience is going to be, but now, the more visible Watson becomes, the higher the bar.”
What’s really challenging today is the sheer amount of data that’s available. Gold puts it in context: ‘It’s about 170 newspapers delivered to every man, woman and child on the planet every single day.’ Imagine the volume just in the healthcare world. “Doctors are overwhelmed with the amount of information that is readily available through clinical trials and research. Epidemiologists would have to read 167 hours of research every week to keep up, according to government. It’s humanly impossible.”
It may be difficult to keep track of what Watson is capable of. It certainly doesn’t seem to fit in a short elevator speech. But Gold summed it up in four main points at the PR Council’s Critical Issues Forum.
1. “It understands, so it literally comprehends, not searches what we’ve become accustomed to, not key word matching, but actual understanding, actual context to context, and concepts that it can read and learn from…
2. “It reasons. It’s literally interpreting what is the meaning of something…
3. “It learns, and that’s the most fascinating. It gets better with every new piece of data that it’s allowed to review, digest, or every interaction, of every outcome, it’s getting progressively smarter…
4. “Then finally, my favorite, it acts and interacts naturally. It literally understanding natural language. This is not Siri and speech recognition. It’s not Alexa and Synthesis of Speech. This is actual contextual understanding of a language, and that’s hard because we as human speak idiosyncrasies and colloquial and even ironies. It’s a challenge with sarcasm.”
But what’s important, from Gold’s perspective, is that Watson is seen as positively contributing to business, to society, “because we have such a dystopian, distorted view of AI (artificial intelligence) largely influenced by decades of movies and what Hollywood has told us. We wanted to dispel that notion. We wanted to get people into a very different frame of reference. This isn’t about world domination and termination. This is really about how man and machine continue to work together. And it’s all about how this new generation of computing will enhance and scale our own expertise.”
Early on, IBM personalized Watson by giving it a name and creating a persona that the advertising takes even further with the voice that it’s created for Watson.
So what will Watson masquerade as for Halloween? It has been a personal shopper for North Face; dress designer on Karolina Kurkova’s light-up dress for the Met Gala; a chef helping Bon Appetit create its new cooking app; and a movie director helping to create a trailer for a new horror movie about a terrifying AI named Morgan. Yup, perfect timing for Halloween!
This post originally appeared on Forbes on October 31, 2016.