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Why AI Won’t Replace Your PR Department Anytime Soon

To replace PR pros, AI must pass the Turing test.

Cover photo: @jerrysilfwer

Will AI replace your PR department? 

Well, not any­time soon — espe­cially if it will require the sin­gu­lar­ity.

But must AI become that soph­ist­ic­ated to begin repla­cing PR depart­ments? A

AI is rap­idly evolving, and with Google’s deep-learn­ing GPT‑3 (gen­er­at­ive pre-trained trans­former) and AI image-gen­er­at­ing tools like Midjourney, AI is already hard at work writ­ing texts and pro­du­cing images.

Still, mas­ter­ing the human lan­guage and passing the Turing test is a tall order.

Here’s why:

Why Human Language is Unique

Most anim­als have some capa­city for communication. 

For anim­als with a high­er degree of sen­tience, com­mu­nic­a­tion can be con­nec­ted to extern­al con­cep­tu­al­isa­tions; a tribe of mon­keys could have a dis­tinct and dis­tin­guish­able sound for “danger approach­ing”, for instance. 1Early human lan­guages were prob­ably advanced forms of semi­ot­ics where the sounds them­selves sig­ni­fy abstract mean­ings.

However, about 75,000 years ago, humans sur­passed this level in a rel­at­ively short evol­u­tion­ary time span. 

We moved on from aud­ible com­mu­nic­a­tion to using human lan­guage, a skill that dif­fer­en­ti­ates us from all oth­er life forms on our planet. 

In this in-depth con­ver­sa­tion, the lin­guist Noam Chomsky explains why lan­guage is unique to humans:

The Mystery of Human Language

Understanding the vast dif­fer­ence between a mon­key’s use of dis­tinct sounds and human lan­guage is import­ant. Or, more accur­ately — how little we under­stand about this difference.

We don’t know how or why we developed our skills for human lan­guage so quickly. 

We don’t know how and why it became so pre­val­ent in pre­sum­ably all hom­in­ids at the time. 

We don’t know how the skill of human lan­guage evolved — only that it did. 

And it does­n’t seem likely that lan­guage skill was selec­ted over enough gen­er­a­tions to pro­duce such a fast bio­lo­gic­al res­ult. There are oth­er com­plex and fas­cin­at­ing products of evol­u­tion, like the eye. 

But in nature, eyes have been around mil­lions of years and have developed into thou­sands and thou­sands of dif­fer­ent varieties. 

We’re stuck with a sci­entif­ic sample size of one; humans.

Neoteny: Apes with Juvenile Features

One inter­est­ing the­ory sug­gests a muta­tion in which a spe­cif­ic breed of hom­in­ids, our early ape-like ancest­ors, suffered from a devel­op­ment mal­func­tion in which the infant hom­in­id brain kept developing. 

According to the the­ory, human beings are over­grown “ape chil­dren.” This would par­tially explain our more juven­ile fea­tures (“neoteny”), the lack of fur, and our weak­er bodies. 

More import­antly, the the­ory could explain why our brain sud­denly grew many mag­nitudes of its pri­or capacity:

For dec­ades sci­ent­ists have noted that mature humans phys­ic­ally resemble imma­ture chimps — we, too, have small jaws, flat faces and sparse body hair. The reten­tion of juven­ile fea­tures, called neoteny in evol­u­tion­ary bio­logy, is espe­cially appar­ent in domest­ic­ated anim­als — thanks to human pref­er­ences, many dog breeds have puppy fea­tures such as floppy ears, short snouts and large eyes. Now genet­ic evid­ence sug­gests that neoteny could help explain why humans are so rad­ic­ally dif­fer­ent from chim­pan­zees, even though both spe­cies share most of the same genes and split apart only about six mil­lion years ago, a short time in evol­u­tion­ary terms.”

Mapping the Brain: 200 – 500 Years Away

A pop­u­lar expres­sion states that we know more about the sur­face of the moon than we know of the floor of the sea. 

Well, we’re closer to know­ing what’s going on in our oceans than map­ping out a cluster of bio­lo­gic­al neur­ons to under­stand how they pro­duce con­scious­ness — and human language. 

It’s dif­fi­cult to sci­en­tific­ally test how human lan­guage is affect­ing our brains. It’s pos­sible that inner dia­logue (intern­al lan­guage use) is closely con­nec­ted to com­plex phe­nom­ena like con­scious­ness.

Decoding the human brain is neces­sary to cre­ate an AI cap­able of repla­cing human language.

The fam­ous Turing test is a sen­ti­ment to this effect: 

Are we able to pro­duce a talk­ing machine able to trick a human being? Despite it being a chal­lenge, such a task is minus­cule com­pared to the chal­lenge of con­struct­ing a machine that uses lan­guage the way we humans star­ted using it about 75,000 years ago. 

We have mapped out the human gen­ome, but we’re still far from fig­ur­ing out how it all works. Even at expo­nen­tial growth, we might be at least 200 – 500 years away from being able to map out (and under­stand) the neur­al work­ings of a human brain. 

A com­pet­ing hypo­thes­is is that human­ity will ven­ture far into transhuman­ism (humans aug­men­ted through tech­no­logy), a cyber­net­ic renais­sance, long before we can suc­cess­fully decode human lan­guage through AI. 

It’s likely that we will fuse humans and machines and cre­ate a human API long before we can pass the Turing test.

The Singularity: 2062 ± 8 years

So, will AI replace your PR depart­ment any­time soon?

The answer seems to be a def­in­ite “no” if we by AI mean achiev­ing mas­ter­ing human com­mu­nic­a­tion. Such AI cap­ab­il­it­ies might require a tech­no­lo­gic­al sin­gu­lar­ity—which comes with its own dis­turb­ing chal­lenges (where keep­ing our jobs is not one of them).

It also depends on what we mean by “soon.”

Futurist Ray Kurzweil has fam­ously pre­dicted that the sin­gu­lar­ity will occur in 2045, and oth­ers have argued stat­ist­ic­ally that this might be “optim­ist­ic” and that it should occur in 2060 – 65 ± 10 years (later spe­cified to 2062 ± 8 years).

However, this is where we lose full con­trol over tech­no­lo­gic­al advance­ments in a way that pro­hib­its us from ever going back, which is not to guar­an­tee sen­tient com­puters able to com­mu­nic­ate suc­cess­fully with humans.


The chal­lenges of mas­ter­ing lan­guage run deep with­in the AI com­munity, surely. But if you think that AI won’t trans­form the PR industry, you’d be mistaken.

There’s a vast dif­fer­ence between the AI sin­gu­lar­ity (which is the one the pub­lic typ­ic­ally fear) or AGI (arti­fi­cial gen­er­al intel­li­gence) and ANI (arti­fi­cial nar­row intelligence). 

Eleonora Terzi, whose dis­ser­ta­tion in MA, Public Relations, Advertising and Applied Communication is focused on AI in PR, writes:

… we are cur­rently liv­ing in the age of Artificial Narrow Intelligence (ANI): all the tools and instru­ments that have been suc­cess­fully developed so far belong to a stage of weak AI. AI that matches human cap­ab­il­it­ies – or even sur­passes them – is a long way from us, and it is pure spec­u­la­tion so far. Nonetheless, even at this stage, AI has already star­ted mak­ing its impact on a lot of indus­tries – such as fin­an­cial ser­vices, law, health­care – and PR is no excep­tion. Two years ago, the CIPR’s Humans Still Needed study found that 12% of a PR practitioner’s total skills (out of 52 skills) could be com­ple­men­ted or replaced by AI today, with a pre­dic­tion that this could climb to 38% with­in five years.”

And Jean Valin Hon FCIPR, Principal of Valin Strategic Communications, writes:

AI is about to massively change our lives. The pub­lic rela­tions pro­fes­sion needs to keep up. We need more exper­i­ence with these tools and more crit­ic­al reviews to learn how best to use them and their lim­it­a­tions. Regardless of the tasks and skills that can be auto­mated or bene­fit from AI, human inter­ven­tion, edit­ing, sens­it­iv­ity, emo­tion­al intel­li­gence, apply­ing good judge­ment and eth­ics will always be needed.”

For the next 20 years, the main tech­no­lo­gic­al drivers impact­ing your PR depart­ments will be a com­bin­a­tion of sev­er­al impact­ful AI trends:

  • Automation
  • Deep learn­ing
  • Neural net­works
  • Machine-learn­ing
  • Quantum data analysis
  • Quantum-driv­en algorithms
  • Smart con­tracts (block­chain technology)

In sum­mary: It’s not that your com­mu­nic­a­tion depart­ment will be replaced by ANI per se, but that few­er com­mu­nic­at­ors will be needed to per­form com­plex tasks efficiently.

Kerry Sheehan, chair of the AIinPR Panel, writes:

Be it through improved auto­ma­tion and AI-enabled tools for many areas includ­ing, media mon­it­or­ing, social map­ping and listen­ing, stake­hold­er man­age­ment, pro­gramme and pro­ject man­age­ment, auto­mated con­tent for a range of intern­al and extern­al pur­poses, includ­ing mov­ing busi­ness, organ­isa­tions and brands towards more owned con­tent and becom­ing their own news pub­lish­ers, or vir­tu­al, con­ver­sa­tion­al assist­ants, chat­bots or cur­at­ors. […] It goes without say­ing where the media goes, PR must keep up.”

Please sup­port my blog by shar­ing it with oth­er PR- and com­mu­nic­a­tion pro­fes­sion­als. For ques­tions or PR sup­port, con­tact me via jerry@​spinfactory.​com.

PR Resource: How AI Will Impact PR

Artificial Intelligence and Public Relations - The Future Office - Doctor Spin - The PR Blog
Every path is going to lead you some­where. (Photo: @jerrysilfwer)

The AI Revolution: Transforming Public Relations

There are sev­er­al ways in which arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence (AI) is likely to impact the pub­lic rela­tions (PR) industry. Some poten­tial examples include:

  • More high-level tasks, less low-level. The use of AI-powered tools to auto­mate tasks such as media mon­it­or­ing, con­tent cre­ation, and social media man­age­ment. This could free up PR pro­fes­sion­als to focus on their work’s more stra­tegic and cre­at­ive aspects.
  • Improved ana­lys­is and bet­ter strategies. The devel­op­ment of AI-powered sys­tems that can ana­lyse large amounts of data to identi­fy trends and insights that can inform PR strategy and decision-making.
  • Using PR pro­fes­sion­als as AI train­ers. Using AI-powered chat­bots and vir­tu­al assist­ants to handle cus­tom­er inquir­ies and provide inform­a­tion to the pub­lic allows PR pro­fes­sion­als to scale PR training.
  • Better pub­li­city through inter­con­nectiv­ity. The cre­ation of AI-powered plat­forms and net­works that can facil­it­ate con­nec­tions and col­lab­or­a­tions between PR pro­fes­sion­als, journ­al­ists, pub­lics, influ­en­cers, and oth­er crit­ic­al stake­hold­ers in the industry.
  • Earlier detec­tions of poten­tial PR issues. AI-powered tools can help PR pro­fes­sion­als identi­fy and mit­ig­ate poten­tial crisis situ­ations by ana­lys­ing data and provid­ing early warn­ing sig­nals of poten­tial problems.
  • Increased edit­or­i­al out­put. In organ­isa­tions where the com­mu­nic­a­tions depart­ment is driv­ing the con­tent strategy, PR pro­fes­sion­als will have plenty of tools for increas­ing both the qual­ity and the quant­ity of the out­put (see also arti­fi­cial con­tent explo­sion).

Overall, the impact of AI on the PR industry is likely to be sig­ni­fic­ant, with the poten­tial to revolu­tion­ise many aspects of how PR pro­fes­sion­als work and inter­act with their audi­ences.

Read also: PR Beyond AI: A New Profession Emerging From the Rubble

1 Early human lan­guages were prob­ably advanced forms of semi­ot­ics where the sounds them­selves sig­ni­fy abstract meanings.
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer
Jerry Silfwer, alias Doctor Spin, is an awarded senior adviser specialising in public relations and digital strategy. Currently CEO at KIX Index and Spin Factory. Before that, he worked at Kaufmann, Whispr Group, Springtime PR, and Spotlight PR. Based in Stockholm, Sweden.

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