Sunday, March 26, 2017

Does AI have a future in charge of people?

Toni Muzi Falconi Invited us to review the opinion of Luciano Floridi in Facebook professor of philosophy and ethics of information at the University of Oxford, and a Distinguished Research Fellow at the Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics. His perspective is outlined in an essay "Should we be afraid of AI".

My response was as follows:

  • Singularity is a red herring. "Because it worked no better than kitchen paper, absorbing and being shaped by the nasty messages sent to it." is a key phrase (by Floridi) because capable and powerful AI will be aggressively used against humanity. It will be a weapon of man against man. It will absorb and be shaped by nasty people as much as nice ones. It could be a radical sect, or a nation state using it but it is certain that it will be used or corrupted as an act of war. Man's aggression to man is by far the most common threat to humanity (and much else besides). This is one of the reasons I believe that the PR industry must learn about it and be part of an axis to deny such threatening foes. Singularity in this context becomes irrelevant as an argument. We will be at war long before then and will be taming AI as a weapon of defence. Thus 'there can be no absolute AI". "We share the infosphere with digital technologies. These are ordinary artefacts that outperform us in ever more tasks, despite being no cleverer than a toaster. Their abilities are humbling and make us reevaluate human exceptionality and our special role in the Universe, which remains unique. " So, I am in Luciano Floridi's camp but for quite frightening reasons. Offer Daesh, the power of AI and it will use it for harm long before it could be sentient. Thus I suggest we prepare for the reality and not the fanciful which so many grand names suggest sentient AI might be.

I had hardly finished writing when the UK Prime Minister ordered Google, Twitter and Facebook to launch a fresh crackdown against online radicalisation in the wake of the attack on people and the Palace of Westminster in London last week. 

The PM’s spokesman said internet search and firms “must do more” to stop extremist material being posted online. Mrs May’s warning came amid a growing backlash against the world’s biggest digital firms which make billions while allegedly al­­­l­­­­owing would-be-at­tackers easy access to terror instruction man­­uals and hate videos. The reputation of such online organisation is now on the line.

There are commercial pressures too. Many companies are withdrawing advertising so not to be associated with such content.

Google, Facebook and others need sophisticated weapons to achieve this.

What then will the PR industry deploy to recover the reputational damage and the commercial disadvantage.

The answer is Artificial Intelligence. Its capability to identify the awful content is already being deployed.

AI is already being used as armament in this battle. But it can be used by unsavoury.

The soldiers in this effort will come from institutions like Bletchley Park. Many of them will be recruited into crisis management teams in PR consultancies and departments. 

In this way, the PR industry is inevitably dragged into the use and application of such Transformative Technologies.

AI will as varied and diverse as the competing factions attempting to use it. It cannot be marshalled into one amorphous capability to control humanity and the embryonic battles for the reputation of Google Twitter and Facebook show us how.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

What is PR?

There is a huge debate going on in Facebook as to the nature of Public Relations. Every student and practitioner in the field should take a look. It shows that there is a great deal of research and thought that has gone into the subject. This is not a passing fashion and anyone wanting to re-define PR has to be pretty brave.

I tried in a paper some years ago and have been rewarded in the fact that my perspective is now able to move forward with the development of social and communication technologies.

The paper posits that material value is released through a process of relationship change and a public relations practice of relationship management is put forward as a management discipline that can create value when the process of relationship management acting on material tokens is deployed.

The basic requirement of PR is to deploy a capability in relationship development that will optimise the mission statement.

The mission statement will identify the organisation as a historic and present day entity and will explicate its capabilities to implement desired outcomes short and long term. Long term ambitions are required as a surety for ethical behaviours.

In future PR will be the means by which an environment is created in which the mission is delivered.

This requires that Public Relations practice has a need to identify entities and their relationship with other entities relevant to the interests of the organisation.

PR practice has a requirement to identify the drivers of relationships between the organisation and its relevant third party entities and as between such entities.

The practitioner will then need to identify the means by which entity relationships can be influenced in relationship development that will optimise the mission statement. 

That is as dry as it comes when describing what we do.

As can be envisaged, this is pretty complicated. It always was but now is more complicated because of the evolution of relationship technologies from the aeroplane to Facebook.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology is already working in areas that can be used in further development of relationship management PR.

"The project aims to develop and evaluate a coherent set of methods to understand behaviour in complex information systems, such as the Internet, computational grids and computing clouds. Such large distributed systems exhibit global behaviour arising from independent decisions made by many simultaneous actors, which adapt their behaviour based on local measurements of system state. Actor adaptations shift the global system state, influencing subsequent measurements, leading to further adaptations. This continuous cycle of measurement and adaptation drives a time-varying global behaviour. For this reason, proposed changes in actor decision algorithms must be examined at large spatiotemporal scale in order to predict system behaviour. This presents a challenging problem."
This helps us to take the idea of relationship PR much further and also shows that there is technological disciple that will be at the core of the debate over the nature of public relations, of which, more later.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Artificial Intelligence Public Relations

In wandering through the Suffolk countryside, it struck me that there is very little by way of a Public Relations perspective of  Artificial Intelligence (AI). We need a simple introduction to the subject. As one does, I took out my phone and dictated a ten-minute introductory lecture. I have embedded it into this blog post.  It is only ten minutes long to be easy to listen to rather than reading a long boring blogpost. There are other explainations, you may like to explore as well.

Listen to "Artificial Intelligence - a ten minute lecture for PR folk" on Spreaker.

Basically, I took as a simple example the application of AI in the analysis of Twitter in its reportage of Brexit. Initially, the issue is one of the collection of data. This can be done in a variety of ways. Twitter has an API  (IBM has a good resource for API beginners here) and this gives access to Twitter  content (there are some services you can use too).
You may have to make decision at the start  would data be collected by the minute, hour day, would one collect the names of the people posting content and what words do they use is the first part of this exercise. Of course, this quickly becomes a lot of information. It is "Big Data". This can be presented in list form. For example how many citations per hour, who are the top contributors, what are the subjects being discussed etc.
We already have services that can do this for us. The media analysis agencies do this. NodeXL  is a useful tool for all of us. Examples show Twitter profiles with tens, even hundreds of thousands of followers.
But we may want to look for hidden perspectives such as a perspective of the expression 'Hard Brexit' or Remain centric content. We might want to work on predicting content and who will drive it (using this open source programme from Google). All such considerations are hard enough for us to assemble and reconfigure the data to provide the answers. But, what if the computer programme was to find similar perspectives for you to consider? These findings are already available using (open source) software like Watson and gain valuable insights from social trends in real time with the solutions integrating natural language classifiers.
What if it was also able to additionally predict the coverage of such perspectives and tell you the level of confidence it had in its predictions.
It will be important to be able to represent such findings in an understandable way. There are examples such as this one.
That would be pretty awesome. But what if we were to collect the data from other media such as Facebook, LinkedIn (with permission, of course), newspapers and other media. Additionally one can add sentiment analysis for even deeper understanding. That too would be very interesting and helpful.
Now, what if one were to combine all these findings. It could, for example, tell us which media leads opinion and excites social media or journalistic activity. Building such capabilities are available to everyone and produce amazing results.
This then describes a scenario for the application of Artificial Intelligence. It is a capability that will be available in months, not years. In the meantime, have a look at Big Data analysis using NodeXL.
All this information is very interesting but so what! It's just lists. How does it become useful?Using such findings, you will be able to inform the Board about where the debate and interest in the media, both traditional and social, has come from and is going to. It can identify the key influencers who can be the target for your views and perspectives. It could suggest what the key words and ideas are for sections of society in various media.
So much for Brexit, but in using Artificial Intelligence in this way, we can examine other subjects and interest in organisations, products, services, employees and other key publics (what really drives politicians?).

The PR industry should be prompted by Karen Bradley, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, to make AI in the PR industry more relevant. She said: "I want the UK to lead the way. We are already pioneers in this exciting technology. We have some of the best minds in the world, working in some of the world’s best universities. We have earned a reputation for brilliance in AI.'

Perhaps we can now look forward to AI integrated into the work of public relations. Can it, for example, propose content for traditional and social media (yes, the actual words and pictures). Can it be used to seek out the relationships between content and PR activities? For example online content and sales? Is it a tool for developing the relationship management tasks in public relations? Such activities will be useful too, but there is much more by way of AI opportunities.

We have to note that there is a lot of copyright and patent application being implemented now.

However, analysis of various factors such as media coverage might identify the nature of the differences between one organisation and its competitors (stability, profitability, progress, people, products, services, and vendor relations, etc.).
There are other areas for the application of AI from defining the nature of organisations (for better mission statement development) to methodologies for enhancing relationship's between organisations and 'publics', but that is for another day.
Suffice to say, that the practitioner armed with what is outlined here, is the person with both the intelligence data and capability to be one of the most powerful people in the organisation and beyond.

Here is a short history of AI. Thank you Albert Puig.

For more about AI this is a slideshow to have a look at.

There are slides for the technicians - like marketing.

Picture: Wintery sunshine over the river Deben.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Internet of Things Public Relations

Most of us have heard of the Internet of Things, but few have considered the role of IoT in PR.

In 2013 the Global Standards Initiative on Internet of Things defined IoT as "the infrastructure of the information society. The IoT allows objects to be sensed and/or controlled remotely across existing network infrastructure, creating opportunities for more direct integration of the physical world into computer-based systems, and resulting in 'improved efficiency, accuracy and economic benefit in addition to reduced human intervention.'

When IoT is augmented with sensors and actuators, the technology becomes an instance of the more general class of cyber-physical systems, which also encompasses technologies such as smart grids, smart homes, intelligent transportation and smart cities. Each thing is uniquely identifiable through its embedded computing system but is able to interoperate within the existing Internet infrastructure.

Experts estimate that the IoT will consist of almost 50 billion objects by 2020.

We recognise IoT in simple devices like Alexa or Google Home and Virtual Reality Headsets. A simple credit card sized device like Trackr turns your phone into a detective to find your car or handbag.

Padma Warrior is the CTO and Chief Strategist of Cisco, quoted a Cisco study placing the value of IoT as a $19 trillion opportunity for her company. It struck me that the PR industry should be investing some of its thinking about the future into IoE too.

So how can we have such a thing as IoT PR?

Really it's simple. We have to think about IoT devices as media. For Example, it is possible to offer information or services that can be integrated into Alexa or Google Home and they can be delivered with cloud-based infrastructure.

My Android phone has the 'OK Google' facility provided by Chrome. In an instant, my phone is a powerful computer that can book appointments and phone my wife. It sets up alarms and tracks my car (no more hunting around in big car parks).  The service has a wide range of capabilities. The exciting thing is that you can design services for mobile phones that can sit on a phone or intelligent companion as an app or service.

Messages, lists of products, pictures and video can all become an instant service on a mobile or computer.

Other IoT devices

The health of elderly relatives can be difficult to track, but it’s even more difficult when they live on their own. Fortunately, you can now rely on IoT devices like Lively to help. It is just the sort of device a Pharma company might like to sponsor. Where you are and what you are doing can be monitored by the clothes you wear or can be offered to help busy mum's track their children and the dog  (what a great way to deliver safety messages). When you start looking there are all sorts of opportunities

It comes down to thinking of IoT devices as media in their own right. Seeing what IoT devices are out there and then working on how they can deliver enhanced relationships with the client requires a creative mind but the impact can be huge. 

The evolution of the Internet of Things into more advanced application in the Internet of Everything is the next step. But more of that later.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Secure Online - A PR issue

The NCSC - part of intelligence agency GCHQ - says the UK is facing about 60 serious cyber-attacks a month. There were 188 attacks classed by the NCSC as Category Two or Three during the last three months.

We are under attack. This is a PR industry issue as well.

Let me explain...

Here is an example, attacks on the NHS quadrupled in the last four years!

In the digital era, new points of entry are opening up for most business from email to cloud environments, from mobility to applications, from the payment gateway to the data centre and much more.

UK organisations are putting their reputation, customer trust and competitive advantage at greater risk by failing to provide their staff with adequate security training. The law is taking an interest which is a potential reputation issue as Ardi Kolah explains in a paper to Academia.

In response, the UK government’s latest National Cyber Security Strategy requires businesses to have a detailed understanding of the risks to their information systems and raise standards to mitigate them.

This is not just the nation and business, it's PR practitioners and their clients as well. The CIPR and other PR institutions, as well as the recognised undergraduate courses, should be considering their response. We 'must be prepared'. A cyber attack is a reputation issue like Marley's Ghost waiting for every organisation that is not prepared.

Cybersecurity teams are losing the fight against cyber crime and the user education approach has failed, according to According to Ian Pratt, co-founder and president of Bromium. We have to up our game.

We need some PR focused responses.

The launch of NCSC coincided with the Financial Conduct Authority, (a regulatory body of the UK government), granting London-based Blockchain startup Tramonex (a Small Electronic Money Institution) registration. This effectively opens the door for the launch of a Blockchain-based currency within the UK.

The approval of Tramonex marks the first case of a Blockchain technology company receiving an EMI authorization from the FCA.

At the core of this permission is ONLINE SECURITY.

The security is made possible because of the use of Blockchain. Blockchain security can be applied in many ways. Not least, it is a technology to secure the ownership of digital content (described in detail here)

For the PR person, this means there is potential for online security for content such as images, podcasts and other sounds, word content including press releases and, really important, contact reports and briefing.

It is important, for example, to secure email exchanges and Blockchain technologies offer such capability.

This suggests that #CIPR could consider getting a similar licence to Tramonex for Blockchain secured communication by members and recognised by authorities such as the FCA. It would be possible to secure the identity of members.

Working with the leaders in the field, CIPR could register a broad range of secure communications tools. Examples that come to mind are Accenture. But there are many more organisations offering services.

The capability can even extend to Internet of Things PR (more later). IoT consultant, John Soldatos, has written at length about this. He argues that since “The 100.000.000 units of the Bitcoin are programmable and can be linked to digital properties other than currencies such as credits or digital votes. This gives rise to the use of the Blockchain for supporting IoT applications. Instead of auditing the exchange of units of a digital currency, the Blockchain could audit the validity of digital transactions between machines and things."

This form of security is attracting added security from organisations such as BT.

Now is the time for the PR industry to consider digital security.