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Thought Leaders in Artificial Intelligence: Protagonist CEO Doug Randall (Part 1)

Posted on Monday, Oct 16th 2017

This is a fascinating window into how AI analyzes narratives to aid marketing and other functions. Read on for more!

Sramana Mitra: Let’s get started. Why don’t we start with having you introduce yourself as well as Protagonist to our audience.

Doug Randall: I’m the CEO and Founder of Protagonist. We’re a company that helps businesses as well as foundations and governments understand the narratives that are impacting them and understanding them in some special ways. We can identify narratives, measure the narratives, and then ultimately help design strategies to either respond to them or to change them. That’s really interesting today because it’s at the intersection of two huge issues.

The first is that we’ve all come to realize, in the past year or two, that narratives are having a fundamental impact on so much. Ask anyone at Uber whether the Uber narrative matters. Those narratives, whether true or false, have a huge impact. They can cost a CEO his job. Narratives extend into every industry and into the whole world. Narratives are driving so much. That’s one thing.

The other thing that’s happening is that technology is allowing us to tap into narratives and to understand narratives in quantitative, analytically rigorous, and robust ways. That is about the convergence of a set of technologies. That’s about the convergence of artificial intelligence, machine learning, natural language processing, and big data.

Sramana Mitra: Fascinating. I have a huge passion for storytelling. I know a lot about AI, machine learning, and natural language processing. Let’s double-click down on everything you said. Take us through use cases where you’re helping customers use your capabilities to turn narratives into actionable insights. What kind of actions are people taking based on that? Elaborate on how you are extracting insights out of those narratives.

Doug Randall: We could do doctoral theses on both of those. Let’s start with how we do it and then let’s get into what the impact is. The basic idea here is that people are expressing themselves everywhere — social media, blogs, websites, forums as well as traditional media. The body of expression is out there.

The challenge is, of course, human beings, can’t read everything. Let’s say that you are a chocolate company that wants to understand with the rising narratives about the negative impacts about sugar on your health. It’s really hard to read absolutely everything that’s out there.

If you’re sitting in the CMO’s office of that chocolate company, you are probably seeing a biased set of papers and often have no systematic way to understand the full set of narratives and how prevalent they are. What we do is we understand the full set of places where things are expressed. Then we pull that data in and apply a couple of NLP algorithms that are customized around narratives.

This segment is part 1 in the series : Thought Leaders in Artificial Intelligence: Protagonist CEO Doug Randall
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