Minority Report - Is AI the future of public sector comms?

Is the dystopian vision of Minority Report a future vision of public sector communications

I’ve been watching the film Steven Spielberg’s 2002 film, Minority Report recently and have been struck how many things from driverless cars to drones are coming true. The film using pre-cogs to predict future crime and takes action before it happens. Is there a parallel with the emergence of algorithms and Artificial Intelligence? 


What is not in doubt is that silently behind the scenes our data is being fed into computers and it’s making decisions. From the diagnosis of cancers to identifying the potential victims of child abuse. In Hackney, AI software is flagging families as potential candidates for their Troubled Families programme. Not only can it protect the innocent but may also save money in the longer term. Anything that prevents another Baby P or Victoria Climbie has to be encouraged. 


The question is where does it leave public sector communicators- in councils, academies, trusts and charities? And how does it relate to GDPR? At one level they appear contradictory. One expands the use of data – the other controls it. There is a lot of debate out there – not all of it helpful. Is it a convenient way to delegate responsibility – a short cut, or a revolutionary way to predict the unpredictable? What about fake positives. Protection of liberties.


I do believe that we’re moving on from the mad panic of GDPR getting all our lists “GDPR” proofed and Artificial Intelligence is the next step. There has recently been a slew of software albeit aimed at the private sector to help target customers. We all need to do likewise and finesse how AI can help us target our customers via social media and websites. We need to join up the dots between GDPR and AI and understand how best the public sector can use this new technology. There is a tangible opportunity for local authorities to improve income generation, charities to target donors, and academies to deliver personalised marketing messages straight to the in-boxes of parents.


It is moving fast. A recent survey in the States suggested that by 2020 - 85% of a client’s relationship with a business could take place without any human interaction. This is scary stuff. Minority Report was predicting a future where crimes could be predicted before they happened. With AI today it is beginning to feel less far-fetched.


AI will be a huge opportunity for public sector communicators. I was pleased to see Comms 2.0 raising the wider issue of AI some weeks ago as it should be on our “to do” lists to better understand the opportunities. They are always informed and worth listening to.


There needs to be a big debate about this.