Magic that’s Real: Astonishing and amazing AI

Magic that’s Real: Astonishing and amazing AI

Not too long ago, I took my family to Universal Studios, and of course I saw echo’s of my work in what was meant to be a vacation (sorry, honey). We rode the new Harry Potter ride, and I have to say: it’s the most fun I’ve had in quite some time. The ride is immersive: you feel like you’re riding a broomstick, chasing a golden ball in a high energy wizard ball tournament. It’s so well executed that in the moment, the illusion of reality is complete. But the moment I stepped off the ride, my mind went to work, trying to peek behind the curtain to dissect the tricks and understand how the magic was accomplished.

Magic. It’s a word I’ve heard in several client meetings recently after delivering parts of my data and AI solutions, especially predictive capabilities, to my clients.

“Wow Steve, you’ve got some interesting magic there.”

“Just put all that data in your cauldron, stir around, and it’ll come out clean, organized, deduplicated and enriched with semantic meaning.”

“…then Abracadabra, the computer will spit out that answer we’re looking for…”

There’s something about the outputs of data and AI that, while perfectly sensically linear to me, appear to be magic to the sales and marketing clients I’m working with. And I have mixed feelings about the word “magic.”

On the one hand, I love magic. Every year, I dress up as Merlin on Halloween and take my kids trick or treating. I’ve spent decades studying martial arts and admire the spiritual side of the practice that incorporates mysticism and defies logical explanation. A magician with a sleight of hand trick never fails to entertain, or get a few bills tossed in his busking hat.

But here’s what gets me when my clients call what I do “magic:” Data and AI are real. There’s no fakery, no tricks, no smoke or mirrors, no deception. To call something “magic” is to question its believability, its credentials, or its authenticity. I worry when my clients equate my work with something fantastic in the fantasy sense, rather than fantastic in the business sense.

But to come back to the other side of the argument: what we can do with data and AI these days is nearly unbelievable. Predict behavior? Reveal buried truth in huge data sets? Teach a computer to think? It’s does seem to come straight from a sci-fi writer’s imagination rather than something we can do right here, right now.

For one recent client, the ‘trick’ was extracting corporate data from places she didn’t think was possible. We embedded information in a powerpoint image, and then ran computer simulations that not only found but also contextualized that information in a matter of minutes. Like magic.

For another, we added affinity groups to a set of marketing data and revealed a buying pattern their marketing team was wholly unaware of. They made a slight tweak to an existing campaign to gear it toward this group, and saw foot-traffic to their stores increase. Again, like magic.

At the end of the day, I think it might be a good thing that my clients see my work as magic. Delightful, surprising, astonishing and befuddling: the experience of magic is a positive one–just never forget that this is the kind of magic where you CAN believe your eyes.

See the tricks in action! We’ll bring our brand of magic to your data, and perform feats of astonishment that will amaze…and deliver tangible, measurable business results.

Contact us and say the magic word (“Abracadabra”) to find out what we can reveal for you.

Steve Smith
Steve Smith

Data and Artificial Intelligence Practice Lead