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The Machine Remembers Machine learning using neural networks has revolutionized pattern, image, and speech recognition. I do not refer to this as "artificial intelligence" for the very simple reason that these technologies are not close to human-level intelligence. A neural network is incapable of learning by analogy and does not learn in a human way. Every time machine learning tackles a new problem, it starts in a state roughly equivalent to that of a human infant; it is a blank slate. But Google’s DeepMind group has managed to pair machine learning with a specific kind of memory that allows the neural networks to retain knowledge. The knowledge that can be retained is specific: names, locations, and dates. But the system also shows a promising ability to learn algorithms from examples. Right now, algorithms must be hard coded. So the ability to retain and perhaps extrapolate represents something similar to learning. Application to Marketing: “Artificial Intelligence” has become an exciting concept for the marketing industry. However, most of what marketers want to do with machine learning could reasonably be accomplished with a database and a basic algorithm. There are already several competing vendors who offer machine learning “as a service.” But as machine learning develops, marketers will find ways to apply it to advertising. After all, it should be possible to extrapolate interest and intent from a small number of data points. For example: what pages a user visits on a site. Once machine learning is capable of crunching data in real time, vendors like DoubleClick will be able to define probable future behavior with higher and higher accuracy based on fewer and fewer actions. Next Steps: A neural network is something to be licensed, not built. But it is worth staying on top of the industry so you know who is leading the pack. Read More Evolution, not Revolution The current cellular data network infrastructure has helped to power a revolution in how we live and work. Smartphones drive internet usage and the app economy. Entire industries are transformed as the ubiquity of computing devices allow people to tap into the digital economy in new ways. In the past, I’ve talked about the coming 5G broadband networks. These networks will be faster, more pervasive and able to handle much more data more efficiently. But ultimately 5G networks are not a revolution in form. They take what we already have and make it better. This is not to minimize the effect it will have. We already know exactly what we can use 5G networks to accomplish. But the next generation technologies, like self-driving cars, will require some blend of 5G networks and mesh networks to truly function. I believe we’re relying too heavily on centralized networks without realizing that self-driving cars and Internet of Things applications will also require localized, ad hoc networks to function. Application to Marketing: Once 5G launches in earnest, we will begin to see a return to more resource-intensive websites featuring more animations, more videos and a richer feature set. Within a year of launch, many companies will want to refactor some or all of their current site to take advantage of the increased capacity. Pretty quickly, the pared-back mobile sites of today will look like an anachronism. Next Steps: 5G is a year away (at least.) And widespread adoption is another year away from that. So we can ride this generation of web technologies out until then. Read More Bitcoin & the Blockchain 101 You know Bitcoin is important. You know that something called “the blockchain” is crucial to how Bitcoin operates. People (like me) keep telling you that the Blockchain will have revolutionary implications for business. You know there are companies like Ethereum that are based on using the Blockchain in the commercial space. But somehow you neglected to learn anything about Bitcoin to begin with. And now you’re afraid to ask anyone because you don’t want to look out of touch. I understand your predicament. Here are a couple things to keep in mind: 1. Most of the people talking about the Blockchain don’t really understand how it works. (Including, your humble writer.) 2. The good folks at TechCrunch have prepared a series of short 7-8 minute videos that will get you completely up to speed on Bitcoin and the Blockchain. (The first one is below.) Application to Marketing: In the video, you’ll hear the founder of Ethereum refer to the Blockchain as “decentralized automation.” This is revolutionary. Most of our technology is still based on a hub and spoke model. Somewhere there exists some servers that handle the important stuff and we, as users, input information and receive back processed outputs. But the Blockchain distributes that processing broadly across the computing devices of all users. I’ve suggested in the past that marketing is actually a series of interactions. And the Blockchain could offer a way to track those interactions in a fully anonymized way to solve the issue of attribution. But there is a more general way in which distributed technologies, like the Blockchain and ad hoc networks, like mesh networks, could offer a digital ecosystem where centralized authority is de-emphasized. That is a change with massive implications. Next Steps: Even if you know about Bitcoin, these videos are worth watching. Read More

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