Big Data and Artificial Intelligence: what will change for consumers?

Interview with Mario Rasetti, President and Co-Founder of the ISI Foundation

They call them big data.

Every year around the world, only with telecommunications, we produce a number of bytes that are the equivalent of writing War and Peace 340 billion times. And, this trend is experiencing a crazy acceleration.

But what’s going on? Faced with the risk of content shock (where content production capacity exceeds consumption), Mario Rasetti, President and Co-Founder of the ISI Foundation, has underlined the importance of understanding the current digital context.

The enabling factor is connectivity, which has increased in just a few years. In the next five years, the world will be covered by 150 billion devices that will communicate with one another and with human beings. The time it takes to double the data will be reduced from one year to 12 hours. Is this positive? Is it negative? It can be seen as a more democratic access to knowledge, but also as a threat to privacy, with the risk of data being used by machines to drive us as consumers.

Of course, they call them big data, but the size is a false problem. The real challenge is interpreting (and using) this little treasure trove of information in the best way – let’s say, in the most ethical way. We asked luminary Mario Rasetti how when we interviewed him at the Segnavie event.


Q: Why are we talking about a digital revolution tsunami? Do you think that new technologies have changed our way of relating with reality?

A: Nowadays, we are finding ourselves faced with a society of human beings who have an electronic extension, or rather, who communicate with one another using technological prostheses. Just think about how, in a short space of time, people’s connectivity has grown thanks to the fact that they have a smartphone in their pockets, and about how value scales have changed in such a short period. We are talking about a cultural revolution with enormous effects and the next “stage” is data and Artificial Intelligence.

When we talk about AI, we tend to compare it with human intelligence. But for me, that doesn’t make sense because our intelligence is animated, not only by so-called “intelligent” processes, but also by a myriad of linked elements, including interaction with the world, with the know-how we build up and so on and so forth: factors that are often incomputable. It is for this reason that we have to use the connectivity offered by technological prostheses to put our brains online for the collective good, or rather, for the survival of the species.


Q: What is the relationship that exists in business terms between the interpretation of data performed by Artificial Intelligence and user engagement?

A: Artificial Intelligence is certainly able to bring advantages on an economic level and in terms of operational efficiency, but it risks presenting us with very complex situations. At the moment, this is the situation: out of 7.2 billion people, 5.1 billion possess a mobile phone, and 2 and a half billion of these use it to access the Internet. Over the next 7 years, a further 3 billion people will access the Internet and, of these, at least 1.3 billion will be functionally illiterate people.

The crux of the matter is this: What language will the Internet invent to communicate with these people? Will it improve their lives or will it turn them into Internet-driven, stubborn consumers? If Internet were to take advantage of a user’s personal data to cure a rare disease or combat terrorism, there could be some ethical guarantees. But, this is much harder to ensure when the data are used to turn a user into a consumer, putting a desire to buy in their heads in not very ethical ways.

For those who have to sell big data analysis, it is certainly advantageous. To give an example, Amazon and its purchase suggestions, which are very successful in terms of sales, could be seen as a small coercion of will. Amazon still gives you the choice, but I’m worried about those situations where it is piloted without even offering this possibility (see Cambridge Analytica scandal).

There is no good or bad data analysis. It depends who does it and with what aims. It is certainly a powerful tool for both parties, for those who sell and for those who buy. The problem is especially an ethical one. There is a kind of gulf between freedom and the risk of having an unprecedented conditioning in our heads. Indeed, we need to avoid data being used improperly.


How to create meaningful relationships between brands and people

With Mario Rasetti’s considerations, we at are happily welcoming those brands that have embraced the invertising philosophy (theorized by Paolo Iabichino), which consists of perceiving the customer no longer as a target or as an aim to be hit, but rather, as an audience to communicate and speak with. But, to communicate, we need to get to know and listen to those we have in front of us and, in this case, Content Intelligence (CI) can give us a big hand.

CI is the ability to understand the complete context of each piece of content, thanks to AI algorithms, starting out from a classification of the assets through tags, which are then associated with the users who have benefitted from them. In this way, the outcome is real-time data on user interests that can be used to take user experiences closer and closer to what they are looking for. 

What happens, or rather, personalizing the customer experience on the basis of the interests identified, is an operation that makes the consumer feel comfortable and as though their needs are being satisfied. As a result, they want to continue in their relationship with the brand until the final conversion. The data collected, therefore, are used to benefit the user.

What’s more, the technological solutions that integrate CI also respect visitor privacy. We’ll explain why here.