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Oh hello! Welcome to Article Group's weekly missive devoted to helping you navigate uncertainty, seek the most interesting challenges, and make better creative decisions in marketing and beyond. New in town? Sign up here.

The difference between "can" and "should"

This week's guest editor is space, science, and technology journalist Swapna Krishna. She's a die-hard Trekkie. She's a sci-fi nerd. She's here to talk about this week's theme: The Future. We love her ideas, and we think you will, too.
Interdimensional friends and colleagues,

We all have so many pre-conceptions about what the future might hold. Jet-setting spaceships, virtual reality worlds, perhaps even artificial intelligence that lives side-by-side along humans. It could be everything we’ve been waiting for, a peaceful and benevolent society, Star Trek-style.

Or it could be something else entirely.

The end of March brings us the 20th anniversary of The Matrix, which is one of the darkest visions of our future. A gray world in which the entire human race is subjugated, used as batteries to power the machines we built that rose up against us. Humans live in a virtual reality world called, appropriately, the Matrix. 

So, two decades on from The Matrix's premiere, what do the next 20 years — and beyond — look like?

Virtual reality, artificial intelligence, machine learning: these aren’t hypotheticals. This is tech we’re using every day. The question is whether we’re headed for that grim future we see in the movies, and how we avoid bowing to our eventual machine overlords.

Too often, the tech community is eager to answer the question, “Can we?” when it comes to invention and innovation. Can we create machine intelligence? Is it possible to create a computer smarter than a human? Can we built a computer that is sentient?

But more and more, people are asking “should we?” Creating and developing responsibly is increasingly important. And as culture continues to shape and hone our technology — after all, science fiction is the best predictor of where science will go next and what technology we will aspire to — we can and will be asking questions about the ethics and responsibility of building our future, as well as becoming increasingly conscious of our relationship with the technology we've built.

Great to be here,
 >> Swapna Krishna, Space, Science, & Technology Journalist // @skrishna // 
What we're working on this week ~ Ryan is re-acclimating to a creative agency environment ~ Joanna is making siiick gifs for this newsletter 🤘~ Joe is working on new financial reports and "generally being west coast mellow" Article Group is a slantendicular creative marketing agency and this is our weekly missive about navigating uncertainty, seeking the most interesting challenges, and making better creative decisions in marketing and beyond ~ sharing is how we grow, please forward to people you love ~ reply to this email, we’d love to hear from you!
From Article #031:
  1. Some personal news from Rae                                                                                             
  2. Noah Brier on The Variance Spectrum                                                                
  3. Karl Vonnegut on The Shape of Stories

>> Who killed the bicyclist—the autonomous car, or the company that wrote the code?

When it comes to artificial intelligence, the possibilities really are endless. There’s a reason that every article on the subject seems to promise that AI will transform the way we live, from medicine to space travel to video games and beyond. But the issue here is how do we program a responsible artificial intelligence? (Is that even possible?) What parameters do we use to ensure that the intelligence we create doesn’t deem us a threat one day? Used well, artificial intelligence can fundamentally change the way we live, the way we do business, the way we entertain ourselves, and the way we die. Harvard Magazine ponders the ethics around these "decision-making machines."

☝️Related: Artificial intelligence — and a few jokes — will help keep future Mars crews sane (GeekWire)

>> Virtual reality — good for work, maybe not for play

Unlike AI (or the promise of AI), virtual reality hasn’t exactly impressed consumers. But calling VR a failure ignores the tech's commercial applications, which is really where the profit seems to lie. Augmented reality (AR), for example, allows users to see the world as it is with virtual elements laid out on top (like Pokemon Go). It's that tech, companies increasingly believe, that will eventually trickle down to the consumer level. For now, AR is incredibly useful for training, simulations, and more. 

☝️Related: Astronauts arriving on Mars won’t be able to walk. VR may save them (WIRED)

☝️Related: The VR revolution is already here — and it isn’t gaming (TNW)


>> Does limiting smartphone and tech usage actually work?

A few years ago, social media was the place to be. On Twitter, on Facebook, on Instagram, on Snapchat — if you didn’t take a picture and post about it on social media, did it even happen? And now, we’re experiencing a backlash against that social tech-oriented culture, thanks to both Facebook’s massive privacy scandals and increasing research that it’s not, in fact, good to be tethered to our phones all the time. Wellness magazines and website advertise “digital detoxes” and “unplugged getaways.” As we’re increasingly battling smartphone addiction, it’s important to rethink the role of technology in our lives and whether its effects are, in fact, positive. Recode weighs the pros and cons of the digital detox.

☝️Related: Do Not Disturb: How I Ditched My Phone and Unbroke My Brain (NY Times)

☝️Related: Why it's high time you ditched that digital detox nonsense (WIRED)
You have questions. We don't have answers. But ... we do have keyboards. Welcome to Office Hours, a weekly advice column in which we gamely attempt to answer your tweeted queries about marketing, the meaning of life, and everything. Follow us on twitter to play along. This week's question comes from @conflummoxed (great name, new friend). For their query, they'll receive a beautiful plastic trophy in the mail. This week's answer, which was written while stuck in traffic on the 405, comes from our hirsute creative content director, @stevebryant
Dearest Lincoln, 

When we ask about brands being honest we really ask about people being honest.

And when we ask about people being honest, we’re really asking about people being afraid.

And when we ask about people being afraid, we’re really asking the question that each of us mumbles, soto very much voce, beneath the sheets, to ourselves, at night: can I be honest and still be loved

So now that we’re both on *that* couch together, let me ask you a question. The unspoken assumption of your question is that dishonest brands are more effective at convincing people to buy things—do you think that’s true?

Certainly there are brand that lie their way to profit. Oxycontin comes to mind. Theranos does not.

And of course you have your willfully deluded customers who, like Stevie Nicks, want you to tell them lies, tell them sweet little lies. Those are the ones who believe that eating salads at McDonald’s is a healthy decision, and that Red Bull gives you wings. Red Bull doesn't give you wings. It does give you hyperglycemia. If you want hyperglycemia, that’s on you. Paddle your own fructose canoe.

So here, Lincoln, are my two Abes: the most successful brands are the brands that understand that their relationship with their customer is more important than the product that they sell.

That is, that the product is a means to a relationship. That relationship, over the long term, is profitable to the brand and beneficial to the customer.

In fact, that relationship is the only asset a brand really has.

I'd extemporize even more floridly, but the truth is we're about to exit the 405 for the 10, which is the automotive equivalent of Los Angeles lying to me that I can, in fact, get anywhere promptly in this over-palm'd hamlet on the sea.

But! We speak at length about this topic in our delightful little piece: Make Relationships, Not Things.

May it tell you truths, sweet little truths.


Have a burning question? Need the ointment of an answer? Tweet us.
  • Tuesday, April 2 is National Equal Pay Day. Shoutout to the women around the world dismantling the patriarchy and getting this 💸💸💸
  • Our dear friends Rosie and Faris Yakob just celebrated their 6th nomad-iversary! Way to go, y'all!
  • Glossier has hired’s digital director Leah Chernikoff to oversee all of the beauty company's content!
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