The concept of anticipatory shipping by Amazon for which it has obtained a patent is termed a genius master stroke to disrupt the existing retail sector. With its sophisticated tools of predictive analytics running on gigabytes of data gathered from customers and third party vendors, Amazon will predict what a person is going to buy in future. So, it will ship the product to nearest warehouse or hub and after the consumer hits the buy button, the product will be delivered immediately within few minutes if not hours. And in few cases the product will be delivered at your doorstep even if you had not bought it yet because Amazon thinks you would buy it without fail. If you didn’t like the product, as a good will gesture by Amazon, you can keep the product for free.
Great idea!! Isn’t it?? You will get unexpected product delivery ASAP. So, what’s the problem?
Freedom of Choice:
Case 1: It is your birthday. Your wife will surprise you in the middle of night with a cake and gifts you a beautiful shirt which you liked on the other day in a shopping mall.
Case 2: You go to a favourite retail store to buy clothes and the person present there will guide and suggest you to buy few particular brands and colours. He already had little knowledge about your tastes and preferences. He saw you and was with you during your previous visits to the shop.
Case 3: You go to a shop for the first time. You pick up 10 models of shirts. Check them and if needed you might also have a trial on them. And finally you buy 3 shirts after examining the price, quality etc.
You don’t have freedom of choice in first case. You might like the shirt gifted by your wife or you might not like it. But you will be happy. Because your wife gifted it with love. That’s how we should balance life and wife.
In the second case, you had a choice to buy a shirt but it was slightly influenced by the employee of the store. That employee had analyzed your taste and he suggested you few models of shirts which he thought you might like and also your purchase of that brand under the guidance of him might get him more revenue and brand related benefits from suppliers and vendors. Here, freedom of your choice is limited due to other person’s influence upon you.
Whereas in third case, you are completely independent. You choose, buy and leave…
Privacy and our natural habits:
Everyone is aware that Amazon tracks our purchase and browsing data. But today this concept went far ahead. It now knows what you are going to buy in the next two days. If this concept goes onto the floors, there will come a day in future where you have to just wake up from sleep and Amazon box will be sitting in front of you.
So, what is the purpose of your life now if everything is predicted and taken care by Amazon. What are you going to do and achieve in your life if your brain is prevented from analyzing, thinking and deciding at least what is good for you. Your likes and interests are hijacked by an artificial intelligence algorithm that will try to alter your perceptions and tastes according to its business interests.
It is huge matter of concern and worry, that in future, our basic choices and opinions are not going to be in our control anymore. Technology is not merely liberating us from difficulties but it is also enslaving us and making us less human. The basic characteristic difference between an animal and a human is the latter’s thinking and analyzing ability of brain. And when AI takes over our brain with powerful machines, we are psychologically going back to primitive times.
There are areas where analytics, machine learning and its parent AI are being used productively. For example in predicting cancers by analyzing tumors, genetic engineering to prevent diseases and disabilities, space exploration, sports and games, traffic, cyber policing, fitness tracking etc.. Moreover, the major chunk of revenue in analytics industry comes from retail and financial sectors. I feel nothing wrong in using data analytics and AI in Supply chain, Finance and Business Intelligence areas in retail sector by Amazon and other ecommerce players. But when it leads to invading privacy and altering our thoughts to influence our choices, then its bad. Really bad.
While I am writing this, my friend shares me a link about Google’s purchase of Mastercard’s data to link online ads with offline purchases. Uhh!!! I will rant about Google in next post. It is another silent stupid privacy invader.