Friday, 9 December 2016

Amazon Go and how Google retaliates in the War for Shopping

This morning I watched a video posted by a friend on Facebook about Amazon Go, a process of buying things which involves you scanning your smart phone upon entering the store and then taking stuff off the shelves and placing them directly into your bag before leaving. Most people will be in awe of such a smooth and effortless transaction as it means less inconvenience for them and no waiting in queues. As society seemingly continues to accelerate at a pace its never known in its history, things that slow it down and hold it back are seen not only as obstacles, but oppressive and eventually no doubt, evil.

I can see Google going much further than Amazon in this game. They will have expected something like this a while back and probably incorporated the idea into their ultimate vision of the shop. When he was CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt in an interview casually announced that Google was aiming to create an algorithm for serendipity, that fortuitous stumbling upon of something which you end up loving. Although Amazon Go is smart, it still requires the consumer to know what they want to some degree, and as is the trend these days, consumers seem to behave as though knowing what they want is an inconvenience that ought to be fixed with technology.

With its masses of bulk data about our preferences, biases and habits, Google I think will have stores where a person walks in, not having any clue about what it is that they want. They'll go up to the counter and the person behind the counter will present them with a box. The consumer is excited by receiving this unknown package. They're excited to get it home and guess what the algorithms have 'given' them. They open the box and find within it something they hadn't even conceived of wanting but are amazed by the how much they do. “It's like magic! How did Google know? Every time I go in I get something I didn't even know I needed.”.

In an age increasingly devoid of an appreciation of introspection and personal self-reflection, Google's algorithms have assumed the role of analyst of our own wants and desires. It knows what we want but didn't realise we wanted, but more importantly, it knows what we will want and desire in the future. And the entire transformation is happening so quietly, without any fanfare because people feel like they are the ones that are being empowered.

If we continue to automate everything we do, even choice itself, then ultimately we become the automated.

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