To continue our series on the artificial intelligence landscape in Latin America, as described by local experts, Ana Vanegas at Echo Market Research sat down with Paolo Miscia to discuss the current and future implications of AI in the region and in the world. Paolo is a legacy industry expert based in Bogotá, Colombia, with over 30 years of experience working in and understanding the intersection of marketing, technology, media, and research.
Paolo’s history with this industry is unique in the sense that, over the course of his career, he has worked in 5 different countries, giving him an in-depth understanding of how different areas may adapt to technology differently. Additionally, over the past thirty years, he was able to participate in the early development of the Internet as a professional working in tech, from Web 1.0 – the Web of information – to the current state of Web 3.0. Nowadays, he is the founder and CEO of Vertimedios, a new-generation technology consulting firm that focuses on helping people and companies approach the opportunities new technologies offer in the best possible way:
“This is my sole focus. I’m not a vendor, I don’t develop solutions, and I don’t sell implementation consulting. My effort is [aimed at] ensuring that, in terms of understanding the phenomena, the culture, and the potential for impact, we approach this with an open mind and move the first foot in the right direction.”
Latin America in the AI Revolution: A User, Not An Owner.
In order to think about what role LATAM plays in the world of AI and what these tools will mean to the region, we first need to break down what the process of adapting to this new tech looks like. In his explanation, he made a point to differentiate analytical AI – which has been around for over a decade and is a well-established technology – from generative AI, the tool that is said to change the game.
He broke down the process of how a community interacts with new technologies, from the early stage of adoption (accepting the establishment of the new process), to adaptation (embracing the technology and building upon it to thrive), to finally, the stage at which the technology operates autonomously as an agent.
Because AI’s breakthrough to the general public happened less than a year ago, he believes that, as of now, Latin America is on equal footing when compared to the rest of the world. However, this sweet spot isn’t expected to last very long, and companies need to be ready to climb the hill of adaptation:
“We are at the stage where the differences are not yet so great, in the sense that we have access to the tools as they do in other regions. We are in the first stage that people and companies go through when faced with a new technology, which is adoption. We are adopting what is out there. We are experimenting. It is the [adaptation] stage where I feel that the differences will begin to be marked a little more.
This is where I feel that the big game is going to be played because it is no longer a matter of ‘Oh, how cool, it is possible to do a thousand things [with AI]?’ but of ‘Which of these thousand things are we going to entrust to an AI? With which contracts? With which protections? With which precautions?’ And that is the stage where we have to invest in so as not to be left behind.”
Still, before organizations are ready to move into the adaptation stage of AI integration, Latin America already has foundational challenges it is expected to face.
“Perhaps what impacts us most in structural terms in Latin America is the language because considering that a large part of the Internet is in English and that the amount of data available to train a large language model is a critical factor, it is obvious that those who operate in English have an advantage over those who operate in Spanish. Fortunately, Spanish is the second or third language of the Internet, so we are not doing badly either.”
Paolo also pointed out how the nature of the region’s relationship with this new tech is fundamentally different than other regions:
“We don’t own the core technology. So, we don’t have the chips, we don’t have the models, we don’t have the data centers, we don’t have the cloud infrastructure. Therefore, necessarily, we in Latin America will be users of a third-party technology and not owners of the technology itself…
But truth be told, this is a reality that has accompanied us since the beginning of the digital revolution. So, it’s not a novelty, but it is worth emphasizing that, again, we are neither owners nor do we have influence over the infrastructure. We are simply external users.”
AI in the Marketing and Advertising Industries: A Potential Hurdle.
We asked Paolo about his views on how AI will shape the industry, regardless of region. To him, from a business standpoint, the impact of AI will be positive and result in greater efficiency. From the point of view of an industry “made up of people,” however, the effects will only be accurately measured over time. Paolo expects to see a difficult adaptation period, where the elimination of existing job positions in the industry will be faster than the creation of new ones.
“Advertising is communication, communication is language. Until recently, language was the exclusive domain of human beings. Now, this is no longer the case. Machines speak, machines understand. The same thing is going to happen to the world of marketing that happened with the Industrial Revolution in the era of factory automation…
Machines could do much better than operators did. And when machines know how to do better than us in what we do today in marketing and advertising, which is to write, understand, find insights, and find creative paths, we will face a revolution. In other words, machines today can handle language, so in jobs where language is the central element, there will be a substitution of human talent for artificial talent.”
Even for businesses and professionals that succeed in adapting to these new processes, however, there is a reputational risk:
“The biggest risk for the marketing industry is that we end up being the bad guys. That is, we end up being the ones who exaggerated when using these new tools, crossed the line, and put into practice behaviors that, as a society, we are not proud of. If we go over that line, there’s a reputational cost to the advertising industry.”
To avoid damage, Paolo says the best approach the industry can take is caution through self-regulation. Because technology moves faster than legislation, the market needs to make a conscious decision to stay within reasonable boundaries when it comes to the extent to which it wants to exploit AI capabilities for advertising.
“There is no way for the laws to establish boundaries for us, we have to establish them ourselves. To me, this is the principle of alignment, which is to make sure that what you get with artificial intelligence is aligned with what we would like as a society.”
In conclusion, be it in LATAM or anywhere, Paolo encourages industries to embrace artificial intelligence. As long as creativity and human empathy remain core values for organizations everywhere, shaping the future of society can be in anyone’s hands.
“Be very open-minded because something good is going to come out of it. And we can all participate. We don’t know who’s going to steer a branch of artificial intelligence in the best possible direction. Maybe it’s you, maybe it’s me, maybe it’s someone who doesn’t consider themselves as important or as influential, but this stage is young… there’s room for everyone’s contribution to have a very big impact.”