NLP and creating a human internet

NLP and creating a human internet

There is no doubt that the internet has changed our brains and continues ceaselessly to do so. Clicking, swiping and shuffling through cyberspace has had an impact on the way we approach, consider and live our lives – whether it is flitting between dancing kittens, football scores, celebrity haircuts, weekly food shops, work emails, predictions of impending nuclear stand-off or some other configuration of once separate spheres of life, the world wide web has more or less all us caught.

It is also fair to say that, for all the convenience involved, our attention spans have suffered as a result; we have developed a kind of fatigue or ennui as a result of continual information overload and, regardless of whether it is actually impacting our actual memories, we are able to be much more carefree with our retention of facts and other kinds of information when we know that even the most arcane piece of data is probably retrievable through a simple Google search.

The brain is very malleable, so even though we are still, at birth, physiologically and neurologically indistinguishable from our savannah-dwelling ancestors, our neuroplasticity means that the function of our internet-connected brains is actually markedly different – and, as I have already implied, the changes wrought by the internet are not necessarily a good thing.

In fact, it is possible to argue that we have already seen the effects of this become manifest in globally significant ways. Take as an example the campaigning that took place in the run-up to the EU Referendum as well as the US Presidential election. Fake news proliferated and the inability of many voters to form any kind of serious and consistent narrative may well have been attributable to the continually distracted attention spans of internet users.

This tallies with recent research from Stanford University, which suggests the more you engage with new technologies, the less able you are to focus on the issues that matter. In this world, what’s new, digestible, frothily entertaining or in keeping with your confirmation bias is routinely and habitually given priority over what is narratively demanding or challenging to existing prejudices or beliefs.

This of course is extremely relevant in digital marketing trends.

Digital marketing is now as much a part of the fabric of all internet noise as anything else, and the question for digital marketers is whether they seek to pursue the cynical course of pandering to and exploiting the lowest common denominator or by doing something else: steering a more optimistic course, one that retains both the aims and the integrity of the digital marketer and thereby respects and empowers the user or consumer.

In our view, a rich and nuanced understanding of Natural Language Processing is critical to this approach. In fact, up until only a few years ago, very nearly the entire gamut of digital marketing trends created an environment in which a kind of bot-speak was imposed on users.

Websites and blogs were casually infected with reams of keywords, and keyword phrases and user experience was understood in only the most awkward and naïve of terms: we had yet to understand that the internet was not some kind of extra-reality but simply an extension of our everyday human interactions.

Natural Language Processing can help transform this perspective by enabling both content and all its various machinations with the ability to imitate the way that humans use and construe language. It may sound like a simple proposition but it has the potential to ensure that both websites and their many-armed offshoots provide the kind of positive and reliable user experience that until only recently was thought unreachable. In some ways it is simply a matter of perspective: do you want to see the internet as a human sphere or more as something that is technological, artificial and challenging? It’s about being at ease enough with the technology for us to accept it as natural.

This paradigm shift in digital marketing trends is a massive relief to everyone, with the only exception being the laziest and most cynical of digital marketers. The keyword might not be dead but nowadays it has been relegated to the incidental, the natural: context and intent are the new monarchs and, all being well, they should usher in a Brave New World that is based on topics and the habits and needs of users. The internet is us, it should not be imposed upon us, and to be successful digital marketing needs to understand this.

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