Weekly Newsletter: My paranoia about AI

The other day the call dropped in the middle of a conversation. I called the other person back and continued the conversation. We speculated that somebody at the telco has a goal to increase call volume and by cutting a call, this would double. Moreover, when you call someone back because you were abruptly interrupted, you feel obliged to stay on the line a little longer, thereby increasing call revenue too. So is the call drop a technical problem or something programmed into the system? Yes, I know, I’m paranoid. Could happen.

My colleague books a cab at the same time each day on an app. The cost per ride seems to be steadily rising. Maybe it’s just fuel prices. Or maybe it’s not. Maybe it’s a clever algorithm monetising her loyalty and predictability. AI paranoia strikes again!

If you put something in an online basket but don’t check out, chances are you will receive a discount coupon in the mail shortly after. It is also possible that if you repeatedly check out airfares to a particular destination the price may rise (or drop) – just for you.

Businesses can now design offers and products at the individual level, custom-designed just for you. The paranoia strikes because you don’t know whether their algorithms are designed to maximise revenue or your benefit. Businesses tend to measure success on revenue growth and profitability so unless there is a downside or a legal constraint to a particular tactic on either of these two key parameters, chances are good that the tech will work towards these twin goals. On the flip side, if you’re in business and are not yet having conversations on how you can market to a customer size of one, you are behind the times.

There’s a lot of talk (and action) on protecting personal data. That’s a good thing. But these algorithms can function fully well without your ‘personal’ information. I think in the future customers will prefer organisations who choose to make their algorithms transparent. Otherwise paranoia will prevail and eventually regulation will follow.

On another note the #metoo movement is in full swing in India. That’s great. It will help create awareness of what is wrong and hopefully result in better behaviour in the future. One of the ways that influencers can help create a fairer world is to avoid perpetuating regressive behaviour in the media and publications that they control or influence. This means looking for ways to show that women have agency, and are not just helpless individuals, important only by association.It’s always a hard call between choosing what reflects the target audience and what you think is the right position. But it can be done! 2019 goals 🙂

I was supposed to be holidaying in Europe today. I applied for my visa 10 days ago and sadly, it has not shown up yet. This led me to some research – the most powerful passport today is Japan with access to over 180 countries. India’s is ranked 81, just after Mongolia at 80, and provides visa-free access to just 60 countries. As we describe ourselves as an emerging superpower it would be nice if we could do a brand roadmap of the attributes that define one – and certainly mobility for your citizens should be key.


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