Embracing AI: indulging the technological titan that is reshaping all digital-centric industries

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s titular character, James Cameron’s Terminator, was an immediate success with many audiences because of its dystopian depiction of the future and themes of man against machine, says the author. File

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s titular character, James Cameron’s Terminator, was an immediate success with many audiences because of its dystopian depiction of the future and themes of man against machine, says the author. File

Published May 28, 2024


By Seth Fuchs

In 1984, as US president Ronald Reagan was seeking re-election and Apple unveiled the first version of its game-changing Macintosh personal computer, science-fiction enthusiasts packed cinemas across America in late October to experience the first film that would launch a 40-year media franchise.

Captivated by its pioneering special effects, inventive storytelling and persuasive characters, including Arnold Schwarzenegger’s titular character, James Cameron’s Terminator, was an immediate success with many audiences because of its dystopian depiction of the future and themes of man against machine. The film’s premise, nonetheless, was clear-cut.

Artificial intelligence machines controlled by Skynet have declared war against humanity. In a desperate last attempt to prevent its destruction, Skynet sends a cyborg assassin, known as a Terminator, back in time to kill Sarah Connor, whose unborn son, John Connor, would grow up to lead the human battle against the machines.

While the film’s storyline was pleasurably gratifying for its fans, its themes of fate, survival and the consequences of technological advancement planted the seeds of anxiety in man and their attitude towards technology in a decade where advancements were starting to take on galloping speed. The anxiety finds resonance in 2024, where human engagement with AI has become far more mainstream than in a crowded, buttered popcorn aroma-saturated cinema some 40 years ago.

Those who follow the news diligently will be aware of the latest buzzword featured in almost every computer user’s lexicon, and its usage to describe any software capable of performing any task that requires human intelligence. These include learning, problem-solving, decision-making and pattern recognition, but can also adapt over time, based on the data that is inputted into their systems.

While the systems are exceedingly complex, the surface of our mainstream interaction with AI includes chatbots such as Chat GPT, and generative AI applications such as ImageFX by Google, which produces images based on a user’s text input. Anyone operating outside the tech and AI industries cannot even begin to fathom the greater impact of how this ever-evolving technology will reshape many industries over the next few years. Especially in marketing and sales.

Our attitude towards this technological phenomenon should be guided by two age-old aphorisms: “staying ahead of the curve” and “knowledge is power”. Since its introduction into the mainstream, AI has become the prominent guiding force, with major tech companies racing one another to market, sell and develop the best AI-centric apps and software for commercial use, while consumer demand remains focused on automation with break-neck speed output.

Almost every week, there are developments in AI technology. Just recently, Slack, a cloud-based collaboration system that enables communication and teamwork within organisations, announced that it would let its paid users receive AI-powered recaps of conversations they’ve had with colleagues. This enables employees to save time on reading long-winded conversations and divert their attention to other work.

However, most mainstream AI tools require human input, typically via text commands. A person who has little experience with AI might need to dedicate time to researching and practising the most optimal inputs or commands to receive their desired output. The internet is, nonetheless, flooded with resources dedicated to guiding users on how to interact with AI. The only thing needed by humans is pure dedication.

The rapid developments within the international community have profound implications for industries in Africa, and South Africa specifically, which withstand domestic challenges from rolling blackouts to a hamstrung economy that their global counterparts might never experience. Failing to understand AI and its development will result in widening the competitive gap within the broader international market.

It is imperative for South African companies, whether multinational or small, medium and micro-enterprise, to conscientiously integrate AI systems and tools into their operations to remain a player in the global market. Superhuman AI, among many others, offers a useful news source on the latest AI developments for South African companies looking to stay ahead of the curve, while leveraging the full power and utility of AI systems for their own growth and success in our economy.

Digital marketing agencies offer a great example – they could easily increase their market share by embracing AI systems to expedite their work output, by automating the production of social media posts that are optimised for distribution across multiple online platforms, by simply feeding an AI tool one piece of content. What’s more, the same agencies could use AI technology to analyse engagement and optimise their posting schedules based on when users are most active. This would lead to significantly better engagement rates over any other digital marketing company that relies on constant human oversight to perform the same tasks.

Businesses could also employ the assistance of AI technologies to combat the fact that they do not have the same advertising spend as bigger multinationals, like Temu. With millions to spend on its online marketing in South Africa, Temu could quickly squeeze local players out of the market. That being said, AI can be programmed to provide digital marketing companies with the tools they need to pursue a similarly aggressive penetration of their target market – without the same ad spend Temu gets to enjoy.

The pressure is certainly mounting on industries to grasp the technology and align themselves with it if they want to ensure their continued growth and ultimate success.

While South African businesses face countless other challenges, our mindset of resilience and diligence continues to be our competitive edge. Combining this with an attitude to comprehend and leverage AI in our everyday work will, at the least, guarantee our survival in the global market. With more time and dedication to AI, South African industries can get even more ahead of the curve and remain operational in the global digital economy, while continuing to earn in foreign currency and growing our economy.

With every perceived threat, there is an opportunity.

Seth Fuchs is the CEO at Empollo.