January 31st 2023

Herberts World #7

New year, new luck! As the saying goes! But is it still true? Aren't the next uncertainties, dangers and disruptors already around the corner?

This is precisely the question addressed in the latest column from Herbert's World - just published on (in German only). Or right here. Enjoy reading!

KI: Job killer OR game changer?

I know January is already history but nevertheless: Happy New Year everyone! But wait. Happy? Hasn't the year been rather ambivalent so far? For once, I'm not referring to war, inflation or the energy crisis, but to the current developments in artificial intelligence (AI). Fittingly, I have both good and bad news - for you and me alike.

The bad ones first. In the form of five reasons why our clients will absolutely no longer need professional market researchers in the future thanks to the latest AI systems:

1. AI systems can already process, analyse and interpret large amounts of data more precisely than the best human researchers. With faster and more reliable forecasts.

2. AI systems can monitor or analyse market trends 24/7, i.e. permanently without interruption, and thus provide real-time data - as an always up-to-date basis for business decisions.

3. AI systems recognise all complex interrelationships that either elude human researchers or would take them considerably longer.

4. AI systems don't get paid and don't need breaks, but still minimise all human bias and error, delivering better results.

5. AI systems can be easily scaled, e.g. for research projects in multiple markets or regions. This allows for anytime data, even from a global perspective!

And, the mood already in the cellar? Then let's quickly change to the positive, i.e. to five reasons why new AI systems will make professional market researchers irreplaceable:

1. AI systems cannot fully understand the cultural and social context of a research project. However, this is crucial for the evaluation of the results.

2. AI systems preserve and reinforce societal biases if they are not permanently trained and monitored. Ethically savvy market researchers can identify and resolve such contexts.

3. AI systems process infinite amounts of data, but they lack the primal human capacity for intuition and creativity to develop new ideas from it.

4. AI systems are worse than experienced market researchers at drawing conclusions from these masses of data that always make sense for a customer.

5. Experienced market researchers are able to present results clearly and convincingly to a non-technical audience. With AI systems, this is (still!) rather questionable.

Well?! Are you a bit more relaxed again?
Or is the last "still!" just having an effect? But straight to the denouement: for both enumerations come from the "pink elephant" itself, the rhetorical figure that has been in the room with us since the first line.

What am I trying to say? They are not mine, but essentially the answers of chatGPT, that chatbot that has been causing a furore worldwide since the end of last year. Because now, for the first time, every internet user can exchange information with this bot in a "completely normal" way. This product from OpenAI immediately spits out high-quality, orthographically perfect and generally correct answers to every question or request for (text-based) support. And that even in any desired form: Whether in German or English, as a list, in tabular form or as continuous text in exactly 850 words. Or 715. It doesn't matter.

The programme is by no means flawless, but it is already so good that schools and universities all over the world are being alarmed and now have to discuss in all haste completely new ways of cheating and plagiarising their pupils and students. Well, have fun with it!

chatGPT, LaMDA & Co.
Besides chatGPT, programmes from other providers are currently about to be released, not least LaMDA from google - presumably even more powerful and reliable. So the question arises: Which professional group is actually still safe from this revolution? Isn't a little panic really called for? Are we all going to be unemployed now because an omnipresent AI is taking away entire professions from us?

No. After all, the ten answers that chatGPT itself gave at the beginning of this text stand as proof: that artificial intelligences are neither the devil nor a panacea, but rather reflect the wonderfully human expression "it depends"!

Not only pupils and students, not only creative people, editors, lawyers or doctors, but also we market researchers can make good use of every technical innovation. But of course not to replace our competences and personalities, but to make the services for our clients even better and to increase the benefits even more. And that is with a sensible and clever use of all AI systems that will certainly come our way in the future.

Yes, artificial intelligence is a game changer!

This is never about blind trust in technology (I already said this in Herbert's World in August 2023). "AI on - brain off" would probably be the stupidest of all decisions. As always in the match between humans and technology, it is a matter of critical but intelligent cooperation, i.e. the combination of human experience and intuition with the performance of a machine that does not need a break and always remains receptive.

Yes, I firmly believe that artificial intelligence will make the good better and replace the bad! If market research deals with it openly and sensibly, the said programmes will become a real game changer - certainly in terms of effectiveness, error avoidance and time savings. And by taking over power-sapping routines, it gives us experts mental freedom for new inspirations and creative spaces. Thus, we are virtually jumping from the "knowledge economy" into a world where expertise, adaptation and the smart use of new insights are what counts.

Throughout history, it has always been better to see technical innovations as opportunities. Because once they are there, they are guaranteed not to disappear. But this can only lead to one conclusion: Always remain at eye level! Only in this way can we have a say in innovations in order to create the best of both worlds (artificial/human).

By the way: Do you know why artificial intelligence will always be inferior to human experience and intuition? Because ...

... common sense is missing: no AI has the "world understanding" of humans. So no algorithm can make decisions and solve problems in the same way as humans.

... the ability to learn is limited: AI's can be trained for certain tasks, but they are less able to adapt to new situations as humans can.

... the classification of a context always leads to problems. Every AI finds it difficult to understand the frame of reference in which information is presented. This can lead to misinterpretations or wrong conclusions.

... creativity is limited: an AI lacks the ability to develop new ideas "out-of-the-box", i.e. the key aspect of human intelligence.

... emotional intelligence is lacking: recognising and deciphering emotions and reacting appropriately to them is a fundamental aspect of human experience and intuition.

Wait a minute! Before you now accuse me of the combination of bias and naivety: ALSO these answers come from the "cursor pen" of chatGPT. I merely added or slightly rephrased here and there. Herbert's word of honour!

So where do we go from here?
At least for us market researchers, I think I can claim that we are open-minded about technology per se. It seems certain to me that we are on the threshold of the next technological revolution - and thus facing an absolutely exciting phase! We should use this time to make a truly new world for our industry possible and, above all, usable. All in the spirit of customer centricity for even more intelligent and effective research, advice and support for our customers.

Or to stretch the arc a little further: After radio, telephone, television, internet and smartphone, we welcome our new guest: artificial intelligence! And it will come to stay. Guaranteed!

Says and looks forward to
Your Herbert Höckel

Herbert Höckel

Herbert Höckel is a managing partner here at moweb research GmbH. He has been a market researcher for more than 25 years. In 2004 he founded moweb GmbH, which he is still the owner today. moweb from Düsseldorf operates internationally and is one of the first German market research institutes specializing in digital processes.

You are welcome to purchase his book "Customer Centricity Mindset ® - Really Understand Customers, Master Disruption Successfully" here.

Your success, our goal!