You Have Been Replaced by a Robot!

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No, I haven’t been replaced by a robot yet. But one day perhaps I will be. As long as it is working for me, that’s fine!

The growing power of computers allied with new computational algorithms provide us with opportunities to do things we wouldn’t have thought possible only a few years ago. Indeed, they may be in danger of replacing humans entirely, even in creative or design activities.



An article on how Evolutionary Algorithms Now Surpass Human Designers in the New Scientist caught my attention. It describes how evolutionary algorithms (EAs) can mimic the process of evolution (very slow, but still by far the best way to develop the most effective natural designs) but at very high speed. Thus, EAs can go through millions of iterations of, e.g. a complex boat hull design, in a very short time, to arrive at the most hydro-dynamically efficient design. A design that even the best designer would be unlikely to arrive at, either by design or by chance.

The aerospace and automotive industries have been doing exactly this for some years now to design the optimum wing, fin and flap configurations in aircraft and the most aerodynamic automobiles. And other industries are working with EAs too. One fibre optic company increased the carrying capacity of their fibres 30 times using EAs. Another implant company configured complex cochlear implants in a few days using EAs, something doctors hadn’t been able to do in over 10 years. And a high tech company used EAs to design a wireless tower antenna that avoided infringing any Cisco patents, thus avoiding licence fees and creating their own patentable antenna in the process.

But what does that mean for CRM?

Think about the process of something complex like offer design for a mobile telco. The problem is that there are potentially dozens of different customer segments, and thousands of product and value-added-service variations that can be mixed and matched together, and an enormous number of different patterns of continuously changing usage behaviour. Faced with this complexity, mobile marketers typically settle for a very limited number of bundles of products and services, and then tweak them if they don’t work as well as was hoped. But what if millions, or even billions of different combinations could be iteratively evolved and tested in silico using EAs, before selecting the best to be live-tested in the market. This would likely deliver much better results than the simplistic manual methods used by mobile marketers today. And their evolution and testing could be continuous, to match the continuous changes in customer behaviour.



What applies to mobile marketing, applies just as much to customer service and customer experience design. And what applies to mobile telcos applies just as much to credit cards, online merchants, loyalty programmes and airline frequent flyer programmes too.

What do you think? Are you about to be replaced by an EA powered robot? Or is your job still pretty secure?

Post a comment and get the conversation going.

Graham Hill
Independent CRM Consultant
Interim CRM Manager



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