A ticket for the Thrival LifeCode event Sept. 20, 2018. Image courtesy of Thrival.

This morning’s Thrival Festival sessions began with John Battelle, cofounder and CEO of NewCo, asking a seemingly simple question: “What makes us human?” In an era radically reshaped by digital code and invisible algorithms that impact everything from voting and job hiring to healthcare and even relationships, the answer is more complicated that ever before.

Thrival’s Life.Code Summit, which began today at Phipps Conservatory & Botanical Gardens and continues tonight with events at the Carnegie Museum of Art and Carnegie Music Hall, explores the exciting (and potentially dangerous) collision between the human experience and our increasingly tech-infused world.

For entrepreneurs, one of the most intriguing sessions today was branding expert Amy Blackman’s presentation on how any business can use AI-driven research to make better creative products.

She grabbed her audience with a real-world example: While working on branding projects at Contend Immersive, Blackman‘s team was tasked with creating branding for a new sci-fi TV show set in the ’80s. Her team could have gone about that the traditional way — brainstorming about what people who lived in and loved that era might want to see or guessing what might grab the attention of sci-fi fans.

Instead they used “data-hacked creative,” employing AI search tools to discover what people who grew up in the ’80s and those fascinated with the era were talking about, thinking about, buying and reading,

The data led them to things like Stephen King’s blockbuster novels and the teen movies of the ’80s, and armed with all that data, a group of “human creatives” then sat down and designed the title sequence and imagery that have helped make “Stranger Things” a cultural phenomenon and a measurable financial success for Netflix.

This approach, Blackman has found, can work for any entrepreneur or business owner seeking to create a powerful product or service.

Analysis of AI-derived data can lead you to understand what drives your potential customers. What do they care about? What do they talk about online? What books do they read, what shows do they watch, what websites do they visit?

It took humans to make the art that has helped fuel the success of “Stranger Things.” But data suggested what kinds of elements belonged on the canvas.

What could that knowledge do, Blackman asked the audience assembled in the Botany Hall at Phipps, for your next idea, your next platform?

Find out who you’re creating for, then have the AI go and hang out with them.

Melissa Rayworth

Kidsburgh Editor Melissa Rayworth specializes in stories about culture, gender, design and parenting. She has written for a variety of outlets in the U.S. and Asia, and is a frequent contributor to The...