Will robots buy electric cars?

Dave Tallon on the great AI eclipse and the quickening

In 1955, the president of the United Automobile Union, Walter Reuther, was being shown through the Ford Motor plant in Cleveland. A company official proudly pointed to some new automatically controlled machines and asked Reuther: “How are you going to collect union dues from these guys?” To which Reuther replied: “How are you going to get them to buy Fords?” So, here we are again. Different time. Different tech. Same story.

Trying to write about AI right now, is a bit like standing on the banks of the Mekong in rainy season, with raging climate change flooding. The general picture and direction is okay, but the details are moving way too fast. The water is murky. It’s shit scary. And at any point the very ground you’re standing on might disappear and take you with it. It’s moving very fast, very powerfully, and mostly under the surface.

Now, I know we’re hype cycle junkies. And chief metaverse officers across the world are already, quietly, and shamelessly, changing the title on their door. If they had a door. Or an office. Or, you know, a job. But, this feels different. It feels like the end of the beginning of something. Perhaps the same feeling we had when electricity arrived. It feels like the great AI eclipse and the quickening has begun.

Road worthy: Hyundai decided to puts its driverless car, the Hyundai IONIQ5 robotaxi, through an actual driving test in Las Vegas. As demonstrated in a commercial, the Korean car brand was put through its paces by a driving examiner, undergoing a road test around the strip and suburban areas. It passed the test and the car is now licensed to drive in the state of Nevada.

Scott Galloway wrote about corporate-ozempic, and how, despite record profits, most of the platforms are shedding workforce, as AI innovation replaces humans. Goldman Sachs estimates 25 per cent of work can now be automated by AI (44 per cent in law ). Meta shed 20,000 people, replacing most of them with AI and chatbots. Swedish fintech Klarna are bullish on their AI bots, which now handle two thirds of their customer service chats.

Klarna say an AI assistant is doing the work of 700 full-time agents. And of course, the more it happens, the more it creates AI job security anxiety. And still, the eclipse continues. AI tools for creative development, video production, audio production, editing, copywriting, have mainstreamed. Springboards.ai is an end to end AI ad planning solution. It works like an app, from brand strategy, to insights, to briefs, to ideas, to concepts, all with the press of a few buttons.

They sell it as a support. A productivity tool. But the intent is clear. People who work with brands will scuff “it’s obvious, derivative”. Probably. Now. But it will only improve. Research tool Untoldinsights.com uses AI to create personas, from segmentation data, to research, test and build ideas from. Machines that sort of impersonate people. A similar tool, from Phil Barden’s company Decoded, has trained AI with neurological data to predict (with excellent accuracy) how humans will react to stimulus (including advertising). And still the eclipse continues.


As Brian Solis’s GenAI prism outlines, commercial AI applications are exploding everywhere, across everything. There’s already 300+ covering; cross-industry applications (visual media, text generation, code generation, etc), industry-specific applications (healthcare, finance, etc) and AI infrastructure (foundational models, vector databases, etc). It’s exciting. It’s scary. And it’s only just begun. Advertising groups are heavily invested.

Publicis spent a lot of dosh transforming from a holding company, to the industry’s first intelligent system. Omnicom opted for a bit of AI and a bit of retail media. IPG, Dentsu, Ogilvy have all shelled out. And not to be outdone, Accenture are investing a whopping $3 billion. Then there’s the platforms. Alphabet, Microsoft, Byte and Meta are all reshaping themselves with AI, whether we want it or not. Apple  dumped their EV plans to catch up.

Businesses like Diageo are using AI to inform R&D and media spend. They launched a new innovation team to go beyond liquid, aggressively exploring AI potential. Coca-Cola are digitally transforming in real time, with AI product development tripling the rates of success on innovation, while also increasing marketing spend. They grew net revenues by six per cent to $45.8bn, volumes by two points and brand value by $8 billion (Kantar).

Marketing spend shifted to digital and CEO James Quincey said that they’re now producing 1,000s of pieces of content that are contextually relevant and measuring these results in real time. AI to research, test, plan, develop and deploy. It’s feels like better, faster and cheaper, is now possible. There’s the huge threat of disinformation (especially in this election year), the monstrous potential copyright infringement issues, and the general existential dread.

It’s a lot.

Some think AI will redefine what it means to be human. As it becomes more able, human intelligence and thinking will be de-emphasized. Feelings and interpersonal relationships will become more important. Which may bring us to a new feeling economy, and an era of empathy. Where emotional intelligence will be key. Perhaps we’re already seeing a resurgence of more human-centred research, like ethnography and neuroscience.

Maybe we’ll lean in to our humanity. Our human-ness. Maybe. It’s unclear. Still murky. Still flowing too quickly. Sometimes it feels like it’s all happening to us though, not for us. Like we have to just deal with it. Just keep up. And shut up. As it speeds everything up, we’re in an enormous game of musical chairs. Getting ever faster. Like the quickening in the movie The Highlander, “there can be only one”.

Organisational psychologist Adam Grant recently wrote: “In a stable world, success depended on building expertise. In a changing world it hinges on evolving expertise. Potential is no longer defined by ability. It’s a function of agility”. Maybe agility is enough. Maybe. One thing is crystal clear clear to me though. Robots still won’t buy electric cars. How come? Simples, they’re smarter and more patient than that.

They’ll wait for hydrogen.

Dave Tallon is founder of We Are Up; dave@weareup.ie

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