Women Leading The AI Industry: “The biases of systems built by the AI industry can be largely attributed to the lack of diversity within the field itself.” with Lexi Montgomery and Tyler Gallagher

Image recognition services have made offensive classifications of minorities, chatbots have adopted hate speech, and Amazon’s technology failed to recognize users with darker skin colors. The biases of systems built by the AI industry can be largely attributed to the lack of diversity within the field itself. This makes it complicated to advance the industry with equal benefit to society as a whole. Given that most of the world’s population is “darker skinned” — this provides an enormous exploitive opportunity, in my opinion. We’ll also lack accurate data on certain cultural groups, their biases and values, if this doesn’t change.

As part of my series about the women leading the Artificial Intelligence industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Lexi Montgomery, the founder of The Darling Company, Miami’s fastest growing neuromarketing agency. She specializes in consumer seduction, or the subliminal influence of subconscious biases that affect decision-making and consumption. Her team’s approach to digital marketing is unique because they use neuropsychology in every aspect of your brand strategy from design to implementation and scaling.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share with us the ‘backstory” of how you decided to pursue this career path?

I kind of fell into this. I’ve always loved psychology, structural design, and video games that put users in control of the gaming experience (ie. The Sims & Grand Theft Auto). I studied international business in college, traveled abroad, and worked as an actress in LA for awhile. Having grown up in theater, entertainment was the natural trajectory for me — but I found myself distracted on set, and always noting the small details about how major brands got into the minds of consumers. I studied the small, detailed triggers they would use behind the scenes — and would frequently opt to help my husband build and market websites instead of rehearsing my lines. I studied the campaigns, and studio backlots — and enjoyed being behind the scenes much more than being in front of the camera. My husband encouraged me to open an agency and offer digital services full-time, so we relocated and I opened Darling about 2 years ago.

What lessons can others learn from your story?

Be flexible. We relocated and took a huge financial hit for me to pursue acting. Then we relocated again, and built an agency without connections, or family referrals. Some would call acting my “eulerian destiny” but I wasn’t fully expressed or happy doing it. My husband was always the techy, and he programmed airplanes before becoming an online entrepreneur. I thought of myself as “the artistic one” — and avoided technology like the plague. It wasn’t until I realized that it takes an artist to design & curate content online that I really fell in love with the process. The two are one and the same. Flexibility has allowed me to transition smoothly, and the tech industry has embraced me with open arms.

Can you tell our readers about the most interesting projects you are working on now?

We’ve worked with physicians, attorneys, and brands in Europe, the US, and Canada. One of the most interesting products we’re marketing currently is a non-electric Farm Gate Opener.

With Mother’s Day and Father’s Day around the corner, it’s the perfect “Life Hack” for consumers living on farms and ranches around the world. The cool thing about this client — is they’re based in Missouri near my alma mater. It’s surreal to be in this position, marketing such a cool a brand internationally, because it feels like I was eating ramen noodles in a crowded dorm room just yesterday.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My husband. He’s been a mentor, a drill sergeant, a bodyguard, my best friend and biggest fan. Entrepreneurship is tough. During my first year in business, my dad died pretty suddenly. I was 25 at the time, and a post about my dad went viral on Linkedin. We got new clients through that post, and ended up traveling around the US and to 5 countries that year. Through all the turbulence, my husband was supportive and didn’t allow me to pity myself. He pushed me to get back up, keep a strong mind, stay healthy, and focused. I talked about getting a day job several times because the pressure was just so intense. That was the hardest year of my life, but his support made it one of the best & most crucial years also.

What are the 5 things that most excite you about the AI industry? Why?

1) Better Targeting

There’s nothing like enhancing your quality of your life, and optimizing the effectiveness of those enhancements. With AI, I’m excited to see better targeting, enhanced & informed user experiences, and the ability to solve problems on a mass scale. As marketers & data researchers, we have the ability to truly change people’s lives and move them closer to their goals at a subconscious level. Even if they don’t believe in themselves, have confidence, or know where to start — we can plant subliminal suggestions that help them accomplish their goals, and make progress.

2) Predictive Insights

In the past, most data gathering & marketing efforts were reactive. The user took an action, we collected data, and then responded based on that data. Today, we have predictive insights. We can say “if [customer] likes A, B & C — they’ll probably also like D” This allows us to improve the user experience, as well as profitability. Everybody wins when the products are high quality and marketing dollars are going towards the customers who desire those specific products & services.

3) Quality > Quantity

Today, neuromarketing is more about the quality of the impression you make on a users, and not just the frequency of contact with that user, lowering the barriers to entry.

4) Low Barriers to Entry

This means that the best marketers & the most relevant influencers and entrepreneurs have a better chance than ever before to optimize their reach.

In the past, major corporations would invest ridiculous amounts of money to research and target consumers. Their products could be terrible, but if they had a good marketing budget, they could subliminally plant themselves in the minds of users, and dominate the industry through brand awareness alone. Today, anyone can reach a massive number of people from virtually anywhere.

5) Subliminal Triggering

Subliminal triggers in neuromarketing & AI work like microdoses of LSD. They make consumers feel intoxicated, but the high doesn’t last very long. This is both good and bad. When they high fades, users want another hit, eventually growing dependent on the trigger itself without even realizing it. This leads to the marketer, or intelligence gatherer’s ability to direct and control what the user feels, and experiences — and ultimately the actions they take.

What are the 5 things that concern you about the AI industry? Why?

1) Stereotypes

Most of our beliefs are hard wired, and based on past experience. We’re subconsciously affected by everything we consume, and thus the decisions we make are far from objective. However, we weren’t born believing in stereotypes. Stereotypes stem from a single experience or compulsive belief, that is then supported and reinforced by new experience.

AI has helped perpetuate gender and racial biases because the technology has developed among a culture where these beliefs and opinions already exist. It doesn’t really gather data from infants (the least biased human beings) because they cannot use a computer or voice their opinions, so the data gathered is skewed by mid-life subjectivity. This perpetuates biases and stereotypes, sometimes amplifying them.

If you have a belief, AI systems will pick up on that and send you 10x as many ads reinforcing your beliefs — in the past, there was no way to do that and marketing was broad & unspecific.

2) Exploitation of Users

If you’ve ever taken a break from social media, you probably realized that it’s a real addiction. The smarter AI becomes, the stronger the drug it becomes as well. The more these AI systems are able to trigger positive associations, and lower user defenses, the more time we’ll spend using the apps that have successfully “seduced” us. This is dangerous because it can lead to spending days, even weeks, on autopilot.

3) Exploitation of Intelligence

It is very easy to exploit artificial intelligence, especially when the diversity behind the scenes is biased, and the cultural values are also biased. AI will surely benefit western culture and is the main reason our celebrities, apps, brands, news, and politicians are so popular around the world. This is a blessing and a curse because we’re really too powerful for our own good. There is definitely a power struggle in artificial intelligence, without many checks and balances. It’s pretty cut throat.

4) Lack of Diversity

Image recognition services have made offensive classifications of minorities, chatbots have adopted hate speech, and Amazon’s technology failed to recognize users with darker skin colors. The biases of systems built by the AI industry can be largely attributed to the lack of diversity within the field itself. This makes it complicated to advance the industry with equal benefit to society as a whole. Given that most of the world’s population is “darker skinned” — this provides an enormous exploitive opportunity, in my opinion. We’ll also lack accurate data on certain cultural groups, their biases and values, if this doesn’t change.

5) Cultural Blindness

According to recent findings published by New York University Research Center, only 15% of AI researchers at Facebook and 10% of AI researchers at Google are women. Further, according to the National Science Board only 2.5% of Google’s workforce is black, while Facebook and Microsoft are each at 4%, and little data exists on trans workers or other gender minorities in the AI field. This doesn’t bode well for cultural intelligence or inclusion.

I’m not saying the industry will be racist or exclusive, but the scenario is akin to learning a new language. Researchers are inherently biased by their own culture, beliefs, and perceptions — all people have personal biases & blind spots. Without alternative perspectives behind the scenes, researchers will continue to approach users in a biased manner rather than viewing the world from the user’s eyes.

As you know, there is an ongoing debate between prominent scientists, (personified as a debate between Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg,) about whether advanced AI has the future potential to pose a danger to humanity. What is your position about this?

It definitely poses a danger.

The danger is that certain people will have way too much power, while the masses don’t understand the data at all. If you think about clean water and electricity, we’re just learning that the sun can generate electricity and we can purify our own water. We don’t have to spend money indefinitely on these resources. Yet, it is illegal in many places to live off grid. The companies that collect user data with AI can improve the planet & quality of life, or exploit its resources and trap people in a system that breeds ignorance, fear, and resentment. The latter seems much more likely.

What can be done to prevent such concerns from materializing? And what can be done to assure the public that there is nothing to be concerned about?

Nothing really, except the widespread education on developments in AI. Most people won’t care, so there’s an implied relinquishment of personal responsibility here — but I still think people should be informed.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story?

I’ve spent thousands of hours recording video strategies to help businesses better communicate and market to their customers. Right now, there is so much work to be done — especially in the medical industry.

I created an interview series called Diving Deep With Doctors, designed to rebrand modern medicine. I interview physicians, triggering certain neuropsychological responses, and viewers get to observe and assess the physician’s body language, bedside manner, and genuine motivations real-time. This helps to earn prospective patient’s trust, and to remove some of the defenses patients and physicians will experience in the exam room. It’s been really interesting so far, I think the series is really bridging the gap for patients.

As you know, there are not that many women in your industry.

Can you share 3 things that you would you advise to other women in the AI space to thrive?

1) Listen more than you talk

You can learn a lot by listening and observing. After all, that’s what our technology does. It’s best to remove as many personal biases and opinions from the equation as possible.

2) Transparency

The opportunity to exploit people is everywhere. Don’t do it. I think that burden would be too heavy to carry because once you’re in this field, you realize just how uneducated the masses are about the subconscious mind, and how vulnerable we are to being influenced as consumers.

3) Don’t Second Guess Yourself

You may feel like there’s so much you have yet to learn, but don’t let that stop you from entering into a conversation. Personal biases & past experience will dictate how a person receives you on first-impression. Being a woman in AI, you’ll probably be underestimated. But most people, even really wealthy, intelligent entrepreneurs, don’t have a clue about this stuff. Technology is very complicated, or at least most people believe it is, so there’s an opportunity to share your technical savvy and the knowledge alone will open many doors.

Can you advise what is needed to engage more women into the AI industry?

I think we just have to be open-minded, and as I mentioned before, flexible. AI is the digital study of human behavior. If you pay really close attention, you can gather this kind of data by simply observing another person. I don’t think robots will ever be smarter, or more complex than a human being. Therefore, we should never be intimidated by the technology. It’s here to help improve the human experience.

What is your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share a story of how that had relevance to your own life?

“The best revenge is your paper” — Beyonce

A month or so after I started my business, I attended an event with my client. Upon introducing me to a contact, the person told me that “[I] should be an escort rather than working in tech because [I] would make more money.” This was the rudest thing anyone has ever said to me. They were insulting my intelligence, and my ability to make money without selling my body. I’m not a confrontational person whatsoever, I get revenge against haters through personal satisfaction & development.

You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)

I would tell parents to stop asking their kids “what [they] want to be when [they] grow up.” This is where conditioning begins, and typically the child will continue to limit their options from that point forward. It’s better to observe the child, and let them express to you what they enjoy & desire — eventually leading them down a path of fulfillment. I would never have been able to say I wanted to be a Neuromarketer and work online, I was born in 1992. Just like “woke” became a movement, there are so many adults still living to please their own parents — so far off the path to achieving their desires. I think people will eventually realize this, and look at their children differently. In general, most of us are lost about our unique gifts, talents, and interests. Giving children a little space to figure out what pulls them & inspires them will have a massive impact on the future.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

Our Website: http://darlingwebdesign.com

Linked In: https://linkedin.com/in/lexmontgomery/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lexmontgomery/

This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!