I believe the framing of the question is at odds with the fundamental concern – can a machine, or data produced from such a machine, provide meaning? The answer to-date is “No.”

Why should “meaning” be the central question? In marketing we are trying to understand people and hopefully through our actions, inspire, convince and persuade them to perform a behavior, whether irrational or rational. “Meaning” is the connective tissue that forms the muscle of that behavior. Take for example children and hot stoves. In the kitchen, I can remember the countless times we would tell our daughter “watch the stove; it is hot!” However, why do some children heed this warning, while others only do so after they feel the burn? I believe the difference is in each individual’s richness of meaning – an understanding of what is being communicated, and how that relates to us and our ultimate behavior choice. This is easily seen in another context —why do some bystanders walk past a person screaming for help, while others jump into action to assist that person? Both groups receive the same message and have the same stimuli, but the meaning applied connects with each individual in a different way to drive a certain behavior.

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