Futurists predict that technology will surpass human intelligence by the late 2030s. Whilst it’s impossible to forecast this with 100% accuracy in advance, we can already make a sensible judgment on how tomorrow’s highly sophisticated tech might affect our lives.

Specifically though for digital marketers, who are already relying on algorithms and big data to make their decisions, will they still have a role in 15-20 years’ time? Or will they simply be replaced by highly advanced web technology that will be able to do their job a lot more efficiently and effectively?

 Algorithms to replace human curation?

In the early days of Amazon, the company employed a panel of critics to recommend books to their customers. However, when Amazon developed its algorithmic recommendation engine sales shot up and the employees were sacked. Is this a sign of times to come?

Algorithms are precision tools of power which, in many cases, will win against flawed, biased, human judgment. Automated retailers will tell you which book you want to read next; dating websites will compute your perfect life-partner; self-driving cars will reduce accidents; crime will be predicted and prevented algorithmically.

80% of the data on the web is unstructured so computers and algorithms play a big part in making sense of the data. Combined with the advances in javascript, real time data collection and processing, web experiences to get richer and richer. We are not far away from having websites curated based on user preferences as well as previous and in-session browsing behavior.

Power to the people

On the other hand, the human race is highly intelligent. This doesn’t just include academic intelligence but emotional intelligence and social intelligence. What separates us from the machine is being able to figure things out for ourselves and watching profoundly talented humans operating at the limits of their capability. In the wider world, if we seek to hand over our decision-making to automatic routines in areas that have concrete social and political consequences, the results could be very worrying indeed.

 Within our realm, I’d argue that people will always remain a vital part of the marketing process as algorithms, no matter how advanced, cannot be as reliable as professional merchandisers. Whilst technically the algorithm is, in most cases, accurate, it does not have that moral operation working alongside it that humans have. For example, when it comes to recommending products to consumers online, content creation is still the single biggest lever for improving customer experience online and you need people, not algorithms to drive this process.

 Are we ready to become Cyborgs?

Other forward thinkers predict that in the coming decades, we will merge with our silicon devices. Futurist Ray Kurzweil envisions a time when tomorrow’s robots will become more and more human-like; and humans, by swapping much of their biology for non-biological ‘immortal’ parts, will develop stronger bodies, becoming more machine-like. However, “Are we ready to become Cyborgs?” and more importantly do we need to?

In my opinion, people are already smarter than the web. It’s taken data analysts, programmers and ecommerce marketers to build and utilize the technology that we take for granted now. In turn, it’ll be these super smart humans that will continue to update and fine-tune these products so that the customer’s experience of the web is improved even more.

 The big revolution for humans taking control is that they are armed with more data than ever before, allowing them to make much more accurate decisions and test the impact of those decisions in real time. No longer do we have to suffer from the highest paid person’s opinion syndrome.

 At the moment there is already a lot of work going into the idea of a semantic web – a web where all information is categorized and stored in a way that allows both a human and a computer to understand it. People will teach the computer what the data means and this will allow the computer to utilize that information. It will be this dual productivity, combined with collective intelligence from both man and machine that we will see in the future; I guess at the end of the day to err is human.