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Why You Need to Ignore the Coming AI Backlash (Thinks Out Loud Episode 417)

Photorealistic image generated by MidJourney in the style of Steven Spielberg that shows a group of people protesting a futuristic looking robot to illustrate the coming AI backlash. The people seem frustrated, not angry.

I’m calling it: We’ve reached “peak AI.” There’s too much hype. With over $50B in venture capital investment in 2023 and literally thousands of “AI focused companies” in marketing technology alone, that’s a bubble that needs to let at least some air out and soon. And when that happens, we usually see a serious backlash. My advice to you if and when that happens for artificial intelligence is simple: Ignore it.

Seriously. You need to ignore any AI backlash. Not because it won’t be justified… at least in part. But because hype and backlash are two sides of the same coin. One side assumes everything is amazing and can never go wrong. The other assumes everything is terrible and can never go right. And, at least as we’re seeing with AI, neither of those is true.

Sure, AI is overhyped. And, yes, you want to ignore that hype. At the same time, artificial intelligence is also capable of improving your content, focusing your thinking, and helping your customers have better experiences. Why wouldn’t you embrace that?

How can you use AI to drive better results? Where should you put your focus? And why is it so important to ignore the coming AI backlash? That’s what this episode of Thinks Out Loud is all about.

Here are the show notes for you.

Why You Need to Ignore the Coming AI Backlash (Thinks Out Loud Episode 417) — Headlines and Show Notes

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You might also enjoy this webinar I recently participated in with Miles Partnership that looked at "The Power of Generative AI and ChatGPT: What It Means for Tourism & Hospitality" here:

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Transcript: Why You Need to Ignore the Coming AI Backlash

Well hello again everyone and welcome back to Thinks Out Loud, your source for all the digital expertise your business needs. My name is Tim Peter. This is episode 417 of The Big Show. And thank you so much for tuning in, I very much appreciate it. I think we’ve got a really cool show for you today.

So, in case you haven’t noticed, AI is beginning to experience some backlash. AI in marketing, AI in sales, AI in customer service to a lesser degree. But we’re starting to see people question, “Wait a second, is this AI thing just a bunch of hype?”

And in fact, there is something called the Gartner Hype Cycle. Been around for years. It’s got five stages. Gartner, the IT research firm, has been talking about this for the long time. And they basically say there’s five stages of technology adoption. The first is a technology trigger. Something happens that makes the technology gain some buzz. And usually some publicity. I love this line from the Wikipedia article: “Often no usable products exist and commercial viability is unproven.” Classic.

Then we hit the peak of inflated expectations where some companies start to do stuff with it and the publicity ramps up a lot. People hear all of the great things that the new technology can do. That’s kind of where we are right now for sure with AI.

But then you hit the peak and you fall off the peak into what is called the trough of disillusionment. Basically, people start to question, “wait, is this thing all hype? Is this, you know, not as cool as we thought?”

Eventually you climb out of the slope of the trough of disillusionment into the slope of enlightenment where you begin to recognize how you really can use the technology in reality day in and day out.

And you finally end up on the plateau of productivity where it becomes mainstream.

Now this happens with technology a lot, although according to research from Ethan Mollick, most technologies don’t actually follow the Gartner hype cycle, only about 4%. But it seems like this time we really are following the script.

The technology trigger was ChatGPT. We’re kind of at the peak of inflated expectations, and we’re starting to see people make some noise that lead me to think we’re about to fall into the trough of disillusionment.

As I mentioned earlier this year, as I’ve been hearing from some folks I’m talking to in the C-suite and the like, we’re beginning to get folks in the C-suite asking what value their businesses receive for all of the investment they’ve made so far in AI tools.

As I heard somebody say recently, “I have more pilots than United. I’m done with pilots. It’s time for the planes to fly.” And that gets to a fundamental truth, and this is true always: Results matter. And because results matter, you’re going to inevitably have a fallout or a bust when, you know, there’s been a lot of buzz and a lot of hype about something.

There’s an old expression that “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” Lots of people have been making bold claims. People, including me, have been making bold claims, but way more than me have been making bold claims about the fact that AI is going to make a significant change on the way we do things.

And so now decision makers at a lot of companies are beginning to say, “OK, cool, prove it, show me.” Again, I said that was happening in an episode we did a couple months ago because that’s where we always end up. If CEOs and other company leaders weren’t asking that question, they wouldn’t be doing their jobs.

And the reality is there has been too much money chasing too few actual solutions. In 2023, there was $50 billion in venture capital investment in AI companies. And I’ve mentioned this stat before, but according to MarTechMap, there were thousands of “AI focused” martech tools in the marketplace between May of 2023 and November of 2023, plus all the existing tools that have been adding AI capabilities as fast as they can dream them up.

I completely believe that in two to three years, every piece of software you use today will either have AI built into it or it will have AI wrapped around it. Now what I mean by wrapped around it is that some legacy applications, and I’m thinking of things like existing hotel central reservation systems or financial services database applications, similar things to that, they’re not going to get ripped out and replaced with an AI version in the next two to three years. That’s just not going to happen. I do think we’re beginning to see a near-Y2K level effort to make it easy for AI to get access to the data stored within those applications. I’m going to talk a little bit more about this later, but clearly that is an area where a lot of work needs to be done.

And the coming AI backlash, one of the causes, if we’re being 100 percent honest about this, is that AI is not perfect. Not by a long shot. I’ve certainly never said it is. AI is not a one size fits all solution. Yeah, we might get artificial general intelligence or artificial super intelligence, you know, in the next months or years. I’m not convinced. It could also never show up. And I would be surprised if it does. I’m not smart enough to know if or when we might actually see something like that. And if or when we do we’re in a whole new world, one where we’ve invited an entirely new species to share the planet with us. A species that is smart, or smarter than we are. I am really not willing to place bets one way or the other about whether that’s going to happen and what it would look like if we do. Personally, I’m not going to worry about it much.

The point remains that AI as it exists today isn’t perfect. At the same time, neither are people. I’m a big fan of people. I think we’re going to keep them around for a while. As we’re learning, AI actually helps most people be better at what they do. So it’s not an “either/or,” — it’s not either AI or people. It’s definitely going to be AI and people for the near term… and probably for the longer term too.

Instead, here are my thoughts about where we are, where we’re going, and why you need to ignore the coming AI backlash.

Yes, AI is overhyped for sure. Way too many “solutions” that don’t solve real business problems. We’re probably looking at an equivalent of the dot-com bubble bursting somewhere in the next 12 to 18 months, I think. I could easily be wrong about the timing, and I could easily be wrong about the scale of any shift that occurs there. Don’t go making stock picks because of anything I’m saying here.

On the other hand, if you really think more than 13,000 martech solutions and $50 billion of VC investment is sustainable, I’ve got a startup or three I’d like to pitch you on. I just don’t think that’s a sustainable reality, and I don’t think that’s a bold claim.

At the other other hand, this isn’t like what we saw with something like crypto. Crypto often has been a solution in search of a problem. Finally, we’ve also seen AI winters happen before. We then climb out of them. We then go back to an AI spring. Good stuff tends to follow.

And the reason I think that’s the case this time is because a lot of the AI that’s being produced right now is genuinely useful. And this gets to the core point I want you to think about today, which is don’t let anti-hype prevent you from doing things that matter to your business. Don’t let the AI backlash, if and when it occurs, prevent you from using a tool to improve the things you do for your customers.

Despite its limitations, you can use AI to solve all kinds of problems today in marketing and in customer service. You can generate, you can use generative AI tools for visuals and text. I’ll give you an example of that in just a moment. You can use it for customer service and chat. I’m seeing cases where companies are using chatbots with their customer service representatives or their employees to improve issue resolution without even exposing it to the customer because the customer service reps or the employees can recognize any issues that the chatbot gets wrong.

You can use it for brainstorming ideas where you’re already an expert — which I think might be the best use case and is certainly my most frequent use case.

Let me give you an example of what that looks like in practice. I gave a 45 minute talk earlier this week about artificial intelligence to a CEO roundtable.

The first thing I did is what I always do when I’m giving a talk. I drafted an outline of what I intended to talk about. What I did differently this time is I then ran the outline through ChatGPT to get feedback. I could have used the latest version of Gemini 1.5, which I increasingly like, or I could have used Claude. All three are exceptional, and according to an array of people I respect, are the very best frontier models, at least at the moment. But I used ChatGPT because it’s the one I’m most familiar with, and I think it’s really good at this sort of thing. Based on ChatGPT’s feedback, I made a couple of changes to the outline.

The overall outline didn’t change a ton, but it did provide a useful set of suggestions to review, even in cases where I rejected its recommendations. Because what happened was it caused me to think more deeply about whether I was making the point I was trying to make, and if I was making it as clearly as I could.

After that, just as I always do, I started building slides. For some slides, I also ran my basic thesis of the slide through ChatGPT, as well as discussing it with people on my team to get feedback on the ideas and the voiceover that I planned to use. Simultaneously, I worked with MidJourney to get visuals for some of the slides.

For this talk in particular, normally I have somebody on my team who creates visuals for me or selects them from, you know, stock image libraries and things like that. But I wanted every visual apart from screenshots and graphs to be AI generated. I specifically did that because I wanted to show the good, the bad, and the ugly so people can get a feel for the array of things that can occur, especially if, like me, you’re not a graphic designer or you’re not expert at this sort of thing. In a few cases, when I got stuck for a visual idea, I asked ChatGPT to recommend concepts or potential prompts. I often edited those, but it was a good thing to have a sounding board to work from, it was a really useful tool for that.

If I’m being completely transparent, I also want to point out that I ran every visual past my content manager on my team, to see what they thought, and then incorporated those recommendations into the prompts, too. A big part of my objective for this talk, is What I did was to use AI as much as possible to show what it’s capable of and show where it sometimes falls down. What I also did was use AI to augment both my capabilities and that of the people on my team.

Now I want to be very clear, I would not at this point outsource the job of creating out the outline, the images, or the slides entirely to an AI. Every time my content manager or I reviewed ChatGPT’s recommendations, we found ways to improve them — or at least almost every single time.

Also, ChatGPT, at minimum, made my thinking clearer when I had to defend my original idea against the AI recommendation. And in a couple of cases, its recommendations were outstanding and I think made the overall talk better too.

The end result here was a very strong, very well received talk. It was, at least in my view, better, sharper, and came together faster than it would otherwise have done. And from the feedback I got from people at the talk, it was very, very well liked by the audience. I had lots of conversation with people afterwards. It seemed to go really, really well.

And my point in telling this story is to say this. Don’t get hung up on the hype cycle. Ignore any backlash against AI because you don’t want to waste your time worrying about all the things that AI doesn’t do if that’s going to distract you from what it does do.

Generative AI for visuals and text, customer service and chat, brainstorming, idea generation, and a host of others you’ve probably found that I haven’t even talked about here. Work on solving real problems, not pilots.

Also look at what needs to happen to connect AI to your data. As I mentioned before, the biggest problem by far that I’m running into with companies is connecting AI with existing sources of data because it’s distributed all over their company. I think that’s an important and accurate driver of the frustration some leaders are feeling right now.

So ignore the coming AI backlash. It’s a waste of time. Use the tools for the things they’re good at. And keep working to improve your customer’s experience and your content and your ideas. Because if you do that, you’re going to do better than everybody else who’s going, “Oh gosh, maybe it’s time we back away from AI.”

And as I’ve said once a long time ago, you’re not going to lose your job to AI, you’re going to lose your job to smart people who use AI. Just like it would be silly to foolishly follow the hype, it would be equally silly to follow the anti-hype and to follow the backlash. Be smart, be thoughtful, focus on customer problems, and you’re going to accomplish a ton.

I, for one, can’t wait to see what you do.

Show Wrap-Up and Credits

Now, looking at the clock on the wall, we are out of time for this week.

And I want to remind you again that you can find the show notes for this episode. As well as an archive of all past episodes by going to Again, that’s Just look for episode 417.

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Show Outro

Finally, and I know I say this a lot, I want you to know how thrilled I am that you keep listening to what we do here. It means so much to me. You are the reason we do this show.

You’re the reason that Thinks Out Loud happens every single week. So please, keep your messages coming on LinkedIn. Keep hitting me up on Twitter, sending things via email. I love getting a chance to talk with you, to hear what’s going on in your world, and to learn how we can do a better job building on the types of content and community and information and insights that work for you and work for your business.

So with all that said, I hope you have a fantastic rest of your day, I hope you have a wonderful week ahead, and I will look forward to speaking with you here on Thinks Out Loud next time. Until then, please be well, be safe, and as always, take care, everybody.

Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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