January 18, 2018

Technology And Wisdom

There is a battle going on for the soul of marketing. It is a struggle between two competing forces -- technology and wisdom.

It is not unusual for technology and wisdom to be at odds. Technology moves in a straight line. Wisdom doesn't.

When our country was formed, about 250 years ago, the technology was remarkably primitive compared to today. No motor vehicles, no electricity, no antibiotics. But was there less wisdom? You'd have to be a mighty persuasive individual to convince any reasonable person that today's leaders are wiser than the "founding fathers."

This has been true throughout history. One of the reasons that the Bible and Shakespeare still appeal to us is that the follies of humans - the greed, envy, and betrayal - are constant while the technology moves from slingshots to spears to laser guided missiles.

If I had to make the case that humanity is any wiser today than it was 5,000 years ago, I'd be at a loss.

Nonetheless, today in the marketing industry we have foolishly equated technology with wisdom. The result is Mark Zuckerberg.

Facebook has utilized technological skill to create an immensely profitable business. But it has been run by callow oafs whose lack of wisdom has created a crisis for democracies, a dangerously cruel social environment for children, and an un-safe space for truth.

Not all technology is the province of the young and not all wisdom comes with age. But, as a rule, tech is the territory of youth, wisdom the territory of maturity.

In the world of marketing, the conflict between technology and wisdom has been no contest. All it takes is a quick stroll through the halls of any marketing or advertising enterprise and it becomes immediately apparent which side has won. In the US today, 42% of the adult population is over 50. But in the advertising industry only 6% of employees are over 50.

The result is that the marketing industry is drowning in technology and starving for wisdom. Technology, left unbalanced by wisdom, is currently responsible for some of the most wasteful, idiotic, and ineffectual follies in the history of commerce. Or does $16 billion in ad fraud not shock us anymore? Does relentless surveillance not concern us? Does public disgust not bother us?

The wisdom of advertising's great "founding fathers" -- the Bernbachs and Gossages -- are unknown or ignored. They knew nothing about our current technology so how they can they inform what we're doing today?... goes the argument.

Technology without wisdom is just an elevator without buttons.

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