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Steven Bartlett appoints ex-Google X lead as ‘industry first’ AI chief

Mo Gawdat and Steven Bartlett

Flight Story, the digital marketing and communications company co-founded by Steven Bartlett and Oliver Yonchev, has appointed Mo Gawdat, former chief business officer at Google X, as its chief AI officer, a role the company describes as a UK industry first.

The appointment follows Flight Story’s recent acquisition of a web3 marketing arm (Flight3) and performance marketing arm (Flight Performance), and the role was created to “ensure its roster of clients stay at the forefront of the changing digital media landscape.”

Gawdat’s career has spanned 30 years at the forefront of disruptive technology, including roles at IBM, Microsoft, and at the helm of Google’s ‘moonshot factory’ of innovation, Google X. Here, he oversaw the creation of self-driving cars and the company’s Google Life sciences division. His understanding of the gravity of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is central to the global conversation on the next technological age.

Gawdat had begun sounding the alarm of caution around AI before it was a global topic, back in 2021, with the release of his book, Scary Smart: The Future of Artificial Intelligence and How You Can Save Our World. His expertise positions him as an essential voice on the topic at a time of particular uncertainty, and this appointment will be an additional platform for him to raise the vital issues to those who make decisions on how AI is being used, within the marketing landscape.

As AI applications continue to change the playing field for industries from marketing to education to healthcare, every positive stride is met with a question or challenge: It is now crucial for brands to bridge the gap between the growth and adoption of AI with necessary regulations and ethical considerations. Gawdat will be central in guiding Flight Story to establish the frameworks within which Flight Story uses, and advises the use of, the burgeoning technology.

Bartlett said: “Artificial Intelligence embodies the greatest existential risk to life as we currently know it, while simultaneously offering the most significant opportunity for positive enhancement. Every enterprise employing this potent technology must be cognisant and deliberative about both aspects of this reality. Without quick and informed legislative intervention, our society risks sleepwalking into an unparalleled social and economic crisis.”

“As the founder of a global marketing agency, which advises brands on implementing this technology, it is my responsibility to ensure we have industry leading experts at the very top of our team. That’s why I’m thrilled to announce the induction of Mo Gawdat into the Flight Story team today, as our Chief AI Officer.”

Co-founder Yonchev added: “It’s clear that the gap between what companies do now, versus what they will do next, is closing quickly. This requires a new mindset to marketing and a rewriting of the rulebook. With Mo onboard, and as we continue to grow our expertise in these emergent areas, we believe we can help brands stay at the forefront of what’s possible.”

Gawdat, said: “I have spent my career fascinated by the role that technology plays, and now the biggest challenge humanity has ever faced is upon us. Artificial intelligence is the culmination of technological advancement and it is my view that it will be unprecedented in defining the way the world is shaped. We need to act proactively and intelligently to its challenges: I am not in a position to change the course of AI and its impact, but with the resources and reach I have been given, I can influence the way people perceive it – and that’s where I’m focusing my attention.”

Gawdat added that after years of working alongside AI algorithms on social media, the technology is nothing new in society, but went on: “The sophistication of digital intelligence is such that it has become autonomous and is something that needs to be appealed to, rather than controlled. It’s vital we stay attuned to how to do this, or risk being left behind.”

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