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Eric Thain is the General Manager of Brand Management at HK Express, where he oversees all aspects of brand, marketing, digital, social media and PR. Eric is also the President of the Artificial Intelligence Society of Hong Kong and is passionate about integrating AI into the modern brand space. Additionally, Eric sits on the Board of Advisors in various Marketing Associations and has received numerous personal and team awards in marketing, including APAC Brand Communicator of the Year. 
We spoke to Eric ahead of his presentation at Big Data & Machine Learning Leaders Summit Hong Kong 2018 to discuss the power and longevity of AI. 

Do you think people should have doubts about the power of AI? 
Naturally, there will be doubts with any new tech. New technology needs to be refined and there’s a timeframe for that to happen. In fact, AI has been around for many years – it was in 1955 when what is considered the first AI program was written. The availability of data, computing power and advanced machine technologies fuelled its growth to where it is today, and AI is making big differences in all parts of business, society, even humanity.
Most of these doubts stem from the lack of understanding about what AI is and what it can do. However, as AI progresses into many facets of our lives, people get used to it and trust it to become another part of the technological advancement that helps make their lives easier. As I have always said, the best tech should be effortless. The more AI progresses towards that, the more people will allow it into their lives. In fact, we are seeing it already - for example, with the many autonomous vehicles that ply our streets. 

Some people think AI won’t last, whilst others feel this will be the biggest shift we have seen in tech. What are your thoughts?
In the wider industries, AI is very much misunderstood, misrepresented & underutilized. Many marketers are afraid of AI due to the many unknown factors such as knowledge, technology boundaries, regulation, talent shortage etc. However, in the wider context, many don’t realise that some advanced AI technology is already in our daily lives. For example, in terms of content, Netflix, Facebook and Google has been using predictive analytics to predict what you might want to see based on your usage behaviours. Also, we have been carrying around in our pockets one of the earliest and most advanced chatbots - Siri. Today, chatbots are widely used in various industries, especially in customer service sectors. There are thousands of other examples in various capacities that show AI is making a big difference to how business is run. It is not dubbed the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’ for nothing; it is here and here for good.

How can AI support a more personal experience for your customers? 

AI is in fact the best tool to achieve personalization. Customer experience has always been the holy grail of conventional marketing. With the advent of technology, our marketing has come full circle from one-to many with traditional advertising such as TV commercials or billboard advertising, to one-to-one personalization at scale. With the growth of the data we have now, we know more about the customer than ever before. This allows marketing to achieve laser targeted personalization and hence, efficiency & optimization. Now, technologies in machine learning allow us to take advantage of the massive consumer data that’s available and connects the dots to deliver actionable consumer insights to brands that drives bottom-line ROI.  
Eric Thain will be presenting at Big Data & Machine Learning Leaders Summit in Hong Kong on December 6 & 7, 2018. In his talk; ‘Unlocking Data Currency with AI’, he will present ways businesses can use AI driven data analytics to unlock the true potential of data. 
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