Diversity of thought is all we have.

And it could be our only hope of beating the machines.

AI is coming to kill us. Skynet is here. And according to 328 LinkedIn carousels, it can start a shitty e-com business in just 7 minutes.

One major issue people have started pointing out with AI is that it’s riddled with in-built biases. Which, given its basically a data aggregator, is a reflection of society at large. Ask it to show us a doctor, pilot, CEO, or Creative Director, and it’s gonna show you an old white guy.

Here they are. I guess the pilot was turned into an actual plane?

This, so far, appears to be a major weak point of AI. Its power comes from an increasing ability to draw from more and more datasets at a faster rate, but what it does from there is effectively the same thing over and over again. It averages things out. It seeks the common denominator. Chases after safety in the generic. Regardless of the hundreds of thousands of pieces of information it harvests, it just aggregates and outputs the most frequent occurence. Effectively, it hunts down mediocrity. (And slaps a nice coat of paint over the top. Sound familiar?)

While the veneer may appear impressive, it fails miserably at sharing with us the whole gamut of the human experience. Specifically, it avoids the fringes. Which raises the point, if we keep doing the same in the way we staff our agencies - we could be stamping our own papers.

Diversity, or lack thereof, has been a longstanding issue in the advertising business. There’s been some marginal improvements, but we’re still a long, long, way off.

The big acronyms at major network agencies, and award juries, tend to mostly look like this.

In the face of corporate groupthink and the sometimes cult-like ideologies of large companies, providing diversity-of-thought-for-hire has been our major selling point.

And in the face of automation and machine learning, it might be all we have left.

Diversity of thought can only come via diversity of lived experience. Background, ethnicity, class, gender, all of it. And with creativity, there’s more to be gained than lost by breaking up a long held status quo.

To provide an example, I’m going to use another world traditionally dominated by white dudes.

Metal. (Bet you didn’t see that one coming.)

I’ve been a metalhead since a very young age, and while it has gone through many phases in that time, it’s mostly been populated by white dudes. And when combined with a lot of elitist gatekeeping, over time everything starts looking and sound a bit, well, the same. But that’s all finally changing.

I’ve never seen so many women in kickass metal bands as there are now. I’ve never seen so many gay, trans, and genderfluid people in metal bands. Different cultures, ethnicities, and languages. It’s fucking incredible. And I am head over heels in love with metal again.

Here are a few examples (If you like metal, you’re gonna love this, if you don’t, then try being comfortable with being uncomfortable for a few minutes. It’s how we grow.):

Courtney Laplante of Spiritbox. Her one take vocal performances go head to head with anyone. And I don’t just mean now, I mean ever. The contrast and transition between almost lush ambiance and absolutely devastating brutality is a thing of beauty. Watch the whole clip, the crescendo is out of this world. (If you lookup any vocal coach’s reaction videos of her performances, they’re all left completely stunned.)

Zulu. A group of black kids telling black stories through the emotive vessel of hardcore music. Just astonishing. And to highlight the importance of seeing and hearing artists like this, here’s the top comment on one of their videos:

Man I remember being in high school and being picked on for being black and listening to hardcore. I love you guys so fucking much I'm crying

Zeal & Ardor. The brainchild of Manuel Gagneux, a Swiss/African-American multi-instrumentalist. Fusing blues n’ roots, African American worship music and ‘slave songs’ with black metal, the whole story behind the project’s origins is fascinating and worth a read - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zeal_%26_Ardor

Why am I posting a bunch of metal clips in my advertising blog? 1. I love metal. 2. Traditionally its been culturally homogenous 3. By embracing diversity, it’s now entering a new golden age

No machine could’ve predicted the above artists, and no machine can predict the type of creativity any other field will be capable of if we embrace and integrate our full selves into the work.

In many ways, we should be aiming to use technology like AI to make us more human, not less.

Maybe the silver lining of the oncoming robot war is that, as a business, we must diversify or die?

And if we resist, maybe we deserve it.


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