Knowing the Difference Between Automation and Artificial Intelligence

Following recent debates with friends on the subject of AI, I came to the conclusion that confusion around the topic is rampant. I’ve been told that machine learning is more advanced than AI, to which I responded “no, machine learning is a building block in the global development of artificial intelligence.” I’ve been told that AI has been around for quite some time and is not new, to which I responded “no, you’re thinking of automation.” And just when I thought my point was complete, a serendipitous conclusion to the discussion arose when Matthew Good’s Everything is Automatic came on the radio. Indeed most forms of technology our generation has come to rely on have been forms of automation and only in recent history has the science and applications of artificial intelligence really emerged because of the plethora of data available now and our ability to manipulate it.

What is Automation?

The practice of automation evolved into what we know today between the first and third industrial revolution – production with automatic control systems, operating equipment, mechanical labor…and of course computers. All of the expressions of automation that have manifested around us are bound by explicit programming and rules.

diagram of icons for fourth industrial revolution

What is Artificial Intelligence?

Artificial intelligence and the creation of cyber-physical systems is different and being deemed the fourth industrial revolution. Artificial intelligence (AI) is fundamentally about trying to get technology to replicate human behaviour in one form or another. Yet humans are complex and don’t necessarily follow rules when making decisions. Today we use forms of deep learning, neural networks and machine learning to get as close as we can to technology that can “think” for itself.

Separating Automation and AI Through SEM

The difference between automation and artificial intelligence is tangible in the context of SEM:

SEM Scenario: Automation

A campaign manager working for a travel company uses an AdWords bidding script that automatically increases the bid every time it rains. This task is automated, bivariate, black or white. That script can only do what it was created to.

SEM Scenario: Machine Learning

A campaign manager working for a travel company uses machine learning technology for bid and budget management that gets smarter everyday by considering millions of data points. The machine learning system is not just wondering if it’s raining or not, instead it’s processing the time, day, competitor bids, past campaign performance and a whole lot more while pacing the budget perfectly throughout the month. Next month it will know even more and will constantly self-improve, delivering optimal results.

“Machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) have redefined marketing and advertising, being able to solve more complex problems and scenarios with greater precision while using more data, faster than ever before. Acquisio has been delivering unprecedented results in the SEM industry by leveraging our suite of machine learning tools now known as Acquisio Turing™.”
– Quote from our recent Acquisio Turing Performance Report.

Marketers have an advantage with machine learning and AI over marketers who are just using automation. To get the results that machine learning can provide, that same campaign manager would have to make dozens of AdWords bidding scripts, while updating every moment of the day, considering all possible variables – a task that is humanly impossible. In this sense, machine learning from a marketing point of view is outperforming even the most capable campaign managers and analysts.

Past Automation to the Future of AI

Automated systems and technology are easily distinguished from artificially intelligent ones by looking at their performance and results, whether in SEM or other applications. Automation will always be rule-based and will never improve independently. AI systems and technology are only starting to show what they’re capable of in new and even undiscovered applications, while existing forms continuously self-improve. The potential that AI technology promises will undoubtedly further change our habits as a society, from marketing to traveling, going where no human or machine has gone before. Perhaps future generations will reflect and write songs about everything being AI…


Image Credits

Feature Image: Unsplash/Ant Rozetsky

Image 1: Screenshot by Chandal Nolasco da Silva. Taken September 2017 from Acquisio.

Chandal Nolasco Da Silva

Chandal Nolasco Da Silva

With nearly a decade of digital marketing experience, Chandal has created content strategies for both the biggest and sometimes the most unexpected markets, while developing strategic relationships with editors and publishers. Chandal contributes to some of the highest authority industry publications, has been featured in industry events and is thrilled to be Acquisio’s Content Director.

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