You Ask, I Answer: Ethical Use of AI in Marketing?

Paul asks, “What can marketers do to ensure the ethical use of AI in their marketing?”

Ethics isn’t something machines understand. They’re still fundamentally calculators at their core, no matter how sophisticated the AI, and a calculator is nonmoral, non-ethical. They’re tools, so the burden of ethics is on the users of the tools. If your company behaves unethically with data and systems now, it will do so with AI, and the most ethical thing you can do is steer that company away from AI entirely, or avoid working there.

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In today’s episode, Paul asks, What can market is due to ensure the ethical use of AI in their marketing? That’s a big question.

We should probably start by defining what we mean by ethics, because ethics itself is a massive field of philosophy, and has so many branches and so many interpretations.

The interpretation that I fall back on most is what you would call either consequentialism or utilitarian ethics.

And what those are, is fundamentally consequentialism is trying to do things that result in the fewest negative consequences for you and the largest number of positive consequences for you.

utilitarianism is sort of the idea that you tried to do the maximum amount of good points Or the maximum amount of benefit for others, the health of others, the happiness of others, the welfare of others, sort of a, you know, to, quote the incredibly cliche business term, a win win situation, how can you make decisions that maximize the benefit to the maximum number of people.

And that’s relevant to AI because when we think about how we do marketing, very often we are trying to maximize the benefit of one party, only our company, right? We want to keep our jobs we want to get a bonus, we will not hit our numbers.

And so we make decisions that are a little short sighted we make decisions that are for the benefit of our company.

And we don’t take the larger view of how can we benefit everyone that how can we benefit everyone perspective is actually what we would call customer centric marketing, right? How can we create benefit for our customers with the assumption that if we do good for others, Good has returned to us in the form of profits and revenues and such.

So let’s start with that definition.

So how can we ensure that AI is being used in a way that maximizes good? ethics and morals and nothing’s machines understand machines have no ethics, they have no morals, they are non moral devices, right? Fundamentally, an AI is still a calculator at its core, right? It’s still just doing mathematics.

No matter how sophisticated no matter how fancy no matter how complex it is, it’s still a calculator.

And a calculator is a tool.

A tool has no ethics, a tool has no morals.

It’s not that it’s immoral that it is inherently bad.

It’s just a tool if it if it sits there on the ground.

With no user, it does nothing right.

You could even say the same thing for things that we typically ascribe to negatives or positive It is write a firearm.

You know, some people will ascribe virtues and vices to a gun.

No, it’s on the ground.

It does nothing, right? The user is the person who behaves with ethics, we’re using that tool and AI is the same.

Because the tool the burden of ethics is on the users of the tools.

Which means that if we the users are unethical or immoral or self centered, then we’re going to use those tools to do things that are unethical.

So the simplest way to answer Paul’s question is, if your company, if you if your manager behave unethically today, with the data and the systems and the software that you have now, you’re going to do it with AI, right, you’re going to take another tool and you In the same way that use your existing tools, if you have a, you know a kid, and and your kid hits their sibling with a stuffed animal and you give the kid a book, they’re probably going to hit the the sibling of the book, right? That pattern of behavior who we are as humans, governance, what’s likely to happen with any given tool? So, how do you ensure the ethical use of AI and marketing and you should ensure the ethical use of your marketing? And if you want to avoid sticky situations that border on spirituality and religion, just go with utilitarian ethics? Are we doing the most good? possible? Are we doing the least harm possible? are we are we making the world a better or worse place? And to the extent that you can give more value than you get? You will probably do okay, so if you’re thinking like, how can I Use targeting and segmentation, you know, deep learning networks to identify customers.

Well, that’s a method that’s a tactic.

And it’s neither good or bad.

But if your product sucks, and your services terrible, and your customers hate, but and they have no other choice, then don’t worry about a I fix your core problems.

If you have a manager, a corporate culture, stakeholders that behave on ethically, the most ethical thing you can do is steer that company away from AI.

You know, if you have a person who is, is violent, don’t give them bigger weapons, and take their weapons away from them and give them like, I don’t know, soft foam blocks to play with.

So when you have a company that already behaves on ethically don’t pursue AI even if you want to personally for your own career growth and and things, do that on your free time do that outside of work.

But don’t give more dangerous things to people who are already dangerous.

And consider not working there.

If you are the kind of person who wants to grow your career and you want to, to also do good in the world, and you’re working for a company that doesn’t do good in the world.

It might be time for a change, it might be time to give some thought to where else could you apply your talents where they would be appreciated, you would be compensated appropriately because again, part of utilitarianism is doing good for yourself too.

It’s just doing good for yourself and everyone else.

And find a place a company that can behave more ethically that can can do more good for the world can invoke fewer negative consequences for its actions.

But I can’t reiterate enough at the end of the day.

AI is just math, right and we can use mathematics for good For evil, we can do good things, you can do horrific things to other humans.

So make sure that the core of the heart and the soul of your company is in good shape before you start introducing advanced technologies.

That’s a big question.

We see ethical lapses or just companies that are unethical.

Facebook comes to mind is was one of the biggest examples of a company where ethics are secondary to that sort of self centered utilitarianism.

And we could talk for hours about the newsfeed algorithm but for now, focus on the ethics of your company, determine whether it is appropriate for the company to be pursuing AI to be using tools that can scale good or bad and then make a decision you know, should we pursue this or should we not based on the ethics of the company overall.

Good question.

Tough question.

Big, big question.

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