#CNILux Day 1: Sophie Hackford: Luxury and Artificial Intelligence
Alice Newbold, Vogue Daily Editor, reporting live from the CNI Luxury Conference in Lisbon
Futurist Sophie Hackford returned to the Condé Nast International Luxury Conference for the fourth consecutive year this morning to share the key technology developments that will help shape tomorrow’s luxury landscape.
In her previous talks, Hackford encouraged delegates – many of whom are the world’s top luxury CEOs and designers – to get on board with the internet’s new future and not repeat what she saw as the collective mistake of the early Noughties, when the industry did not get online and on-board with e-commerce quickly enough. Today, she expanded her theory that the world is becoming a computer, and delved into the world of Artificial Intelligence (AI).
The language of the future, Hackford explained, is the language of machines. But after 60 years of disappointments, in which a lot was promised by AI but not much of it seen, how will it actually transform our lives?
She referred to Robin Li, Chinese internet entrepreneur and co-founder of the search engine Baidu, who said: “Over the past 100,000 years, whatever tools you invent you have to learn how to use. In the future, you won’t need to do that – tools will learn how to understand human language, human intentions. That’s the future.”
Until now we have had to code machines to programme algorithms akin to human behaviour. Today, Hackford said, we are developing systems that can learn for themselves and do things that humans used to have the monopoly on, such as creativity. Machines will get better by feasting on raw data and learning without humans, in what is called “unsupervised learning”.
In the next decade, Hackford predicts, “We will have our own bot, our own little agent, our own avatar to negotiate on our behalf, a digital ambassador.” It will do our convenience shopping in the background with no help from us. Brands will market directly to the bot, and not to us. At the end of the month, it will let us know where we can save money, thus making our life more efficient. It will represent us to the world but also represent the world to us, by giving us information and news. But, she asks, “As the bot gets to know us, who does the bot share this information with? This is a question Washington is grappling with currently.”
A bot can’t go deep into experience, which the luxury industry requires, but, Hackford noted, it can help us solve business problems. It can generate data for customer research when companies don’t have data, fill data gaps and help human decision-making with data. “AI should be seen as a team-mate, not a competitor,” she offered.
In order to progress, she advised, “We must study machine behaviour as we would human and animal behaviour. They fail in ways humans would never fail, so we need to understand the boundaries of where humans end and robots begin.”
Though Russia’s President Putin is famous for saying that whoever controls AI will control the world, Hackford maintained that our belief in it will make the success or failure of it. The future is “not a race against the machines, but a race with them”.
The fourth annual Condé Nast International Luxury Conference is in Lisbon, on the 18th and 19th April. For more information, visit www.cniluxury.com/2018